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Results From Water Testing in The Acreage Released

Oct 2, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Water in The Acreage, a Florida community that some speculate is the site of a cancer cluster, is not contaminated with toxic chemicals,  the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced. However, four wells had levels of alpha particles, radium-226 or radium-228,  that exceed drinking water standards.

Radium-226 and radium-228 are naturally occurring radioactive metals that could cause cancer at elevated levels. According to the Palm Beach Post, the DEP noted that such radioactive contamination often occurs naturally.

As we’ve reported previously, residents of The Acreage have been concerned about a cancer cluster since several children living in close proximity to each other were diagnosed with brain tumors. People in the area have speculated that a nearby Pratt & Whitney jet engine plant and/or citrus groves in the area, which used potentially dangerous pesticides for decades, may have tainted well water in the area. There were also concerns about soil contamination.

Earlier this summer, residents’ concerns prompted the Florida Department of Health to begin a study of cancer rates in the area. The results of the first phase were unveiled in late August. According to the Palm Beach Post, investigators found 1,369 cases of all types of cancer among residents in The Acreage between 1995 and 2007. A similar-sized area elsewhere in Florida could be expected to have 1,055 cases in that time, the Post said. The report revealed six cases of brain cancer in children 14 and younger from 1997 to 2007. Of those, three were diagnosed in 2008, the report said.

The Florida health department report was not clear as to whether or not the findings pointed to the existence of a “cancer cluster” in the community. However, the department decided to launch a second phase of its investigation of cancer rates in The Acreage.

According to The Palm Beach Post, the DEP has now finished dozens of wells in The Acreage for 100 toxic substances, including pesticides, herbicides and metals such as lead and arsenic.  While not all wells were tested for every substance, no evidence of such man-made pollution was found, the Post said.

The four wells where elevated levels of radium-225 or radium-228 were detected did not appear to be near the locations where residents have reported brain cancer in children.  The DEP said the contamination may require homeowners with affected wells to install water treatment systems.

Only 10 private wells were tested for radium-226 and radium 228, the Post said.  Drinking water from the Seminole Water Plant, which supplies water to most schools in The Acreage, didn't show levels of radium above drinking water standards.

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