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South Patrick Shores Gets Superfund Designation Nearly 30 Years Later

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
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The Florida Channel
A 32-acre portion of South Patrick Shores was given the designation as a Formerly Used Defense Site last month.

A 32-acre stretch of South Patrick Shores in Brevard County could now be eligible for federal Superfund money to clean up contamination from nearby Patrick Air Force base. 

Designating South Patrick Shores as a Formerly Used Defense Sites has been a nearly 30-year fight for locals who have long tied a myriad of health problems with the area. The area is now residential housing, but used to be housing for Airmen on base.

Congressman Bill Posey lobbied the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency for the designation.

“It means they’re eligible for money to evaluate the area and remediate whatever’s wrong there,” Posey said. “And we know there’s something’s wrong. We don’t know exactly what it is, no one’s been able to tell us what it is.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to finish a preliminary assessment in early 2020. Check here for more information from the Army Corps, including the reasons why the change was made.

Back in 1991, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided the site did not qualify as a former defense site because the Department of Defense never owned or leased the land.

But new documents uncovered in 2018 show the defense department did use the site to burn and bury construction material for Patrick Air Force Base with the landowner’s permission.

“Who knows what the shelf life is on some of this stuff, some of this hazardous material,” Posey said. “Obviously it’s pretty long. That’s the bottom line. Now we’ll find out for sure what the problem is and what it’s gonna take to remediate it.”

The Navy used land south of Patrick Air Force Base to burn and bury construction materials. The base was known as the Naval Air Station Banana River.

Residents have long tied a myriad of health problems with the base. Most recently, new research found a link between chemicals used on the Air Force base and certain cancers.

Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Health studied the issue and found statistically-significant higher rates of cancer in two zip codes around Patrick Air Force Base.

Over a 20-year period, the department found 130 more deaths than would be expected in the population. Of the nine cancers studied, bladder, pancreatic and lymphoma all had rates higher than expected. Others, like liver and thyroid cancers, were seen at lower rates.

But, the department said it doesn’t have the capability to determine whether the chemicals are the cause — and that the data does not support doing that complex investigation.

Nationwide from 1990 to 2012, 468 suspected cancer clusters were investigated. Only three investigations were able to establish a link between the disease and a specific environmental exposure.

Health News Florida reporter Abe Aboraya works for WMFE in Orlando. He started writing for newspapers in high school. After graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2007, he spent a year traveling and working as a freelance reporter for the Seattle Times and the Seattle Weekly, and working for local news websites in the San Francisco Bay area. Most recently Abe worked as a reporter for the Orlando Business Journal. He comes from a family of health care workers.