Army Corps thinks dumpsite toxins seep into Brevard homes as gas

For many years, experts struggled to explain exactly how toxic chemicals from old military dumpsites along Space Coast beaches managed to sicken residents around South Patrick Shores.

Now for the first time, after decades of denial, federal officials have signaled that they might have an answer: the cocktail of poisons come from underground in the form of vapors that seep into homes and can cause several health risks.

The admission came in an Aug. 9 presentation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to state and local government officials. In the presentation, which recommended studying indoor air quality of homes in the South Patrick Shores area, the Corps noted that indoor air quality samples might show that homes were “potentially impacted by Navy-derived waste materials.”

“What jumped out at me as I read this was the emphasis on VOCs, volatile organics, as the greatest potential pathway of exposure to the residents here,” said Sandra Sullivan, a South Patrick resident who’s running for the Brevard County Commission Dist. 4 seat. Sullivan obtained the 70-page presentation via a public records request to the city of Satellite Beach. “This is the Corps of Engineers acknowledgement of that risk.”

Sandra Sullivan stands in her South Patrick Shores yard with debris from the dumpsite under her yard piled up next to her. She worries contamination in the ground may be a health risk to her and her family in South Patrick Shores.

Industrial solvents and other chemicals that contaminated drinking water near military bases around the country have been associated with outbreaks of cancers and other rare diseases, sparking lawsuits and federal intervention.

What long provided a degree of plausible deniability to the military regarding South Patrick Shores was the fact that drinking water to the beachside area comes from mainland sources. Health officials said exposures would likely have to come from soil or elsewhere but there was no clear smoking gun — until now. 

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