UPDATE: Water quality at beachside schools
Aug. 10, 2018
Brevard Public Schools would like to remind parents of the recent findings regarding the safety of drinking water in its beachside schools. We also would like to address issues recently raised by parents about the safety of ground water, drawn from wells to irrigate school sports fields.
Most importantly, no traces of two potentially carcinogenic chemicals were detected in any tests of drinking water at 13 beachside schools. At those schools, the water from Melbourne and Cocoa city utility systems is safely used in:
- Drinking fountains and faucets
- Swimming pools
- Sinks and icemakers at stadium concession stands.
The two carcinogenic chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), were found in unhealthful concentrations in groundwater at nearby Patrick Air Force Base, probably from firefighting foam. They have been mentioned in recent news reports speculating about possible environmental causes for cancer cases along the South Beaches.
PFOA and PFOS were detected in recent tests of ground water from wells drilled by Brevard County and the cities of Satellite Beach and Cocoa Beach. Brevard Public Schools uses ground water from wells only for irrigating sports fields and landscaping at night. The Florida Department of Health told BPS that this would result in “practically no exposure” to students or staff. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says that only a small amount of such chemicals could get into a person’s body through the skin, and that showering and bathing in such water “should not increase exposure.”
Concentrations in the Satellite Beach well water were significantly below the maximum levels considered safe for drinking – every day, for a lifetime -- by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Concentrations in Cocoa Beach’s wells and reclaimed water were several times higher than EPA guidelines for safe drinking water. That water is used for watering a city golf course and school sports fields. BPS uses no groundwater or reclaimed water for drinking, washing or cooking at any school.
Meanwhile, minute traces of a related but less-toxic compound known as perfluorobutanoic acid (PFBA) were detected in drinking water at nine schools served by the City of Melbourne water utility. Although neither the EPA nor the state of Florida provide health guidelines regarding PFBA, some states do. For example, Minnesota recommends no more than 7,000 parts of PFBA per trillion parts water. The highest level detected in BPS drinking water was 12 parts per trillion at Satellite High School – or 0.17 percent of Minnesota’s maximum recommended level.
If they choose, students may bring bottled water to school to drink.
- Brevard Public Schools has sent its drinking-water findings to the state Department of Health in Tallahassee for further consultation.
- The City of Melbourne plans to hire an accredited lab to test its water for perfluourinated compounds at its “point of entry, where freshly treated water enters the distribution system.
- The City of Cocoa Beach will hire an accredited lab to retest its groundwater and reclaimed water.
- The City of Indian Harbour Beach plans to test well water, including at a site near Ocean Breeze Elementary School.