South Patrick Shores Contamination Investigation

Image captured of Satellite Shores housing being torn down for new development in Satellite Beach, Florida, in 2018. Images by Stel Bailey Photography

The Army Corps of Engineers Investigation into Potential Contamination Underneath South Patrick Shores Homes

A significant percentage of homeowners in South Patrick Shores located on top of land where the military buried waste had not signed the right-of-entry form for the government to investigate the potential contamination from when the Navy disposed of waste off base starting in 1942. The disposal operations pose a potential risk to people and the environment. 

Residents in the 32937 area may be apprehensive about being involved because of property values or the impacts on their property during the fieldwork needed to do the investigation. The fieldwork will include a geophysical survey with minimal effects on the ground, a mini excavator, a collection of surface soil samples, and equipment for subsurface samples. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) says they will document the property condition before work and restore it to how it was found. 

The USACE needs more homeowners in South Patrick Shores to sign the right-of-entry to help in their investigation, data collection, and analysis to complete a report and assessment that includes risks to health and the environment. The Brevard County School District has also not signed a form for Sea Park Elementary. The board continues to delay signing permission for the investigation, which is of the utmost importance as young children are the most vulnerable to harmful contamination. 

For decades residents have been uncovering barrels, transformers, old fridges, plane parts, rounds, practice mortars, and burned military debris in South Patrick Shores. In 1992, there were 30 toxic waste dumps at Patrick Air Force Base and nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with contaminated soil and groundwater. Hazardous chemicals were tossed into landfills from World War II through the early 1980s. Open dumpsites with no liners are considered a challenging issue in groundwater protection.

After WWII, toxic chemicals are suspected of contaminating water on bases and nearby communities with chemicals ranging from cleaning solvents, explosives, and firefighting foam. Some health issues include cancers, colon, and digestive disorders, stillbirths, miscarriages, headaches, and nose bleeds.

Patrick Space Force Base (previously known as Patrick Air Force Base) toxic dumps have been under scrutiny ever since the abnormal rate of Hodgkin's Disease first made headlines in the '90s. In November of 1991, the EPA conducted soil and groundwater sampling in South Patrick Shores and detected elevated levels of lead and aluminum. The aluminum levels in one well were 2000-3000 times greater than levels detected in all other wells. There was one sample from a well in 1991 that exceeded health criteria. It showed PCBs, metals, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds. 

State and federal experts told papers that the South Patrick Shores neighborhood was built over an old military dump. Still, no further investigation was made until 2019, after cancer concerns made headlines again. The Florida Department of Health (DOH) released a health investigation that showed higher cancer rates in two zip codes. The state assessment didn't examine breast cancer or other rare diseases like ALS. Because of Congressman Posey's support and persistence in helping the community get answers, research teams located various letters and memoranda indicating that during the construction of the base, the Navy used the area for disposal activities.  

Some do not trust the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to be impartial in their investigation. An employed biologist with the USACE made headlines for lying and violating federal ethics laws while working in South Florida from 2014 to 2019. They have also been the subject of numerous environmental groups and city lawsuits. One way to reassure residents of an ethical investigation is by having trusted community leaders participate in open and closed discussions concerning the project. Unfortunately, after numerous email exchanges, the USACE declined to invite environmental health advocates, including the established nonprofit organization, Fight For Zero, to be a part of the communication process as stakeholders on the project.  

The FUDS eligibility in South Patrick Shores is only a tiny area, and many in the community believe it goes much further. Military artifacts have been dug up as far as Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. This investigation may decide that the disposal area is larger or smaller than the USACE outlined.

Fight For Zero hosted a community meeting with Erin Brockovich in 2018, where water expert Bob Bowcock brought forward the theory that contamination could be entering homes through soil vapor intrusion. Volatile chemicals can emit vapors that may migrate through subsurface soils and into indoor air spaces of homes in ways similar to that of radon gas seeping into buildings. 

The buried military debris potentially leaking harmful chemicals underneath homes isn't the only concern from the department of defense activities on beachside communities in Brevard County. Those in Cocoa Beach are dealing with higher levels of PFAS coming from the base, and former military soldiers who trained in survival canals were exposed to harmful toxins that could have caused testicular cancer. It was discovered in 2019 that an unusual number of Satellite High School students were diagnosed with rare cancers after graduating. The drinking water at 13 beachside schools showed PFBA, water fountains across Brevard show PFAS, and groundwater is contaminated with perfluorinated compounds. These chemicals can uptake in fruits and vegetables grown in yards watered by contaminated shallow wells. 

The FUDS designation is just one environmental issue in Brevard County that needs to be addressed. After decades of cancer survivors fighting for answers, this investigation is an opportunity to learn more about what lies under South Patrick ShoresMany cancer survivors and their families in the county have been working to bring awareness to environmental health to save lives through prevention and early detection. Fight For Zero is the first organization to focus on human health from the declining water quality in the Indian River Lagoon and other environmental issues. Property values never seem to be affected in these ecological catastrophes, but they will always be lower than the cost of health. 

Rounds that were ignited and buried for decades in a South Patrick Shores backyard.

Signs where soldiers used to train on Patrick Air Force Base in the survival canal

Active remediation (cleanup of harmful contamination) off the banana river on Patrick Air Force Base

In the distance are the Satellite Beach water tower and Satellite High School. The water tower was removed during the 2021 summer. PFAS was found underneath the water tower at 400 ppt. 

Fight for Zero

Our team brings passion and drive to take on environmental health challenges. Our mission is to inform, educate, share resources, and inspire action to protect natural resources.

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