Environmental crusader, Erin Brockovich was in Florida this week to meet with residents and health officials and to host a Town Hall meeting Thursday night to talk about the cancer cluster at the South Florida community known as The Acreage.
Brockovich was played by actress, Julia Roberts in a film about her efforts in uncovering toxic water pollution in California.
These days she has formed a company that investigates corporate wrongdoers and advocates for the truth.
She and a New York City law firm are investigating environmental links to brain cancer cases at The Acreage neighborhood in Palm Beach County and offered residents information and options for legal action.
The cause of the suspected cancer cluster remains a mystery. In the rural suburb of West Palm Beach, the state and county have launched a Level II investigation after the first one found an increased rate of total cancers from 2000 to 2007. Girls in particular, had an increased number of brain cancers with The Acreage reporting 1,369 cases of all types of cancer between 1995 and 2007.
So far, the state has found elevated levels of radiation at ten homes that also have residents with brain tumors or cancer.
The state DEP has found four private wells with drinking water that failed to meet state standards for safety because of elevated levels of radium, a measure of radiation. Some residents have blamed heavy pesticide use on orange groves. Pratt & Whitney, the rocket and jet engine company worked nearby on Beeline Highway and is responsible for leaks and spills on its 7,000 acres dating back 30 years.
In the 1980s the company had its own on-site cancer scare. Some Acreage residents believe contaminant leaks into their wells might have contributed to their brain tumor cases.
The company is cleaning up petroleum in groundwater, various metals and volatile organic compounds as well as a chemical solvent the company used which is a likely human carcinogen called 1,4-dioxane, jet fuel, and PCBs.
The parents of one child soon realized they were not alone when their six-year-old was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Among the community of 50,000, they found others and have rallied them to come forward creating a web site and keeping track of cancer cases in their community. They believe at least 70 families have suffered from brain cancer or tumors.
To see a map of the affected area, click here.
Full disclosure, accountability, and a high profile presence might persuade the state to speed up its research and give residents some answers that they desperately need. There is no excuse for what has happened to the innocent residents of this contaminated area in Florida.
Source articles: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2009/10/07/1007brockovich.html; http://www.palmbeachpost.com/localnews/content/local_news/epaper/2009/10/08/1008brockovich.html