What Happened to the Satellite Beach Water Tower and Satellite High School Cancer Mystery?

Water towers have been used for decades to store and maintain water pressure. The Satellite Beach water tower has not been used for over a decade since the base housing near it came down. The water systems use new pressurization that no longer requires water towers. 

You may deal with fluctuations in pressure and discolored water when your city is flushing fire hydrants. Flushing the water distribution system improves water quality by removing sediment and scale that builds up over time. 

Flushing fire hydrants while the tower was dissembled during the summer of 2021

The Satellite Beach water tower sat across from Satellite High School, where an unusual amount of students were diagnosed with rare cancers. The school has been in media headlines for decades with cancer cluster concerns and the discovery of contamination at Patrick Space Force Base (formerly known as Patrick Air Force Base). The last time these concerns were mentioned was in the 1990s when many young students who lived in South Patrick Shores were being diagnosed with a rare blood cancer known as Hodgkin's Lymphoma. 

After much pressure from environmental health advocates and the community in 2018, Brevard County decided to test 13 beachside schools for cancer-causing compounds known as PFAS. There are more than 4,000 kinds of chemicals designed to repel grease and water. These chemicals have been used in firefighting foam on military bases since the 1960s, in pesticides, and in industrial products. 

These chemicals cause cancer, birth defects, immune suppression, thyroid defects, fetal abnormalities, childhood disease, reproductive harm, and other health issues. It only takes trace amounts to cause damage. The chemicals are also known as "forever chemicals" because the compounds don't break down easily and bioaccumulate.  One of the compounds, PFBA, was detected at Satellite High School, with the highest levels out of all the schools tested on the beachside. 

High levels of PFAS are in the soil, groundwater, and sewage throughout the area and were detected beneath the water tower in March of 2021 at 406.4 ppt. The EPA safety advisory limit is 70 ppt. Signs north of the water tower in Satellite Beach, where a former South Patrick Housing was, now have warning signs posted. Tests being done by the government are detecting PFAS compounds in the samples collected from the area. 

On June 4, 2021, the tower began to be professionally dismantled. 

"A true landmark," said Kathy Ticker-Dadul on Facebook. 

"End of an era," said Marilyn Schmid on Facebook. 

"The tower had "Melbourne" on it; it confused people because it was in Satellite Beach. I say "good riddance!" said Bill Maier on Facebook.

Close up of the water tower in 2018

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