Acreage Cancer Cluster: Residents Can Join Class-Action Lawsuit for Plummeting Property Values

Yesterday, the law firm of Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, and Shipley held a news conference about lawsuits related to a cluster of pediatric brain cancer in the residential neighborhood Acreage, located in western Palm Beach County.

Five couples who lived in the area and whose children developed brain tumors are serving as plaintiffs in a class-action suit that seeks damages for local residents whose property value plummeted after the cancer cluster was publicized. The lawsuit extends to "every current or former Acreage area landowner who owns or owned an Acreage property at any time since August 24, 2009." There are about 10,000 houses in the area.

The families are also filing individual lawsuits for damages.

Though health officials confirmed a cluster of pediatric brain cancers, the lawsuit alleges that adults have been affected too:

"According to self-reported data from the community, the 2008-2010 incidence of brain tumors for the entire Acreage population is above 30. From 1997-2007, the highest number of cases that should be expected in any three year period based on both state and county comparisons is 5.1. Based on the self-reported data the pediatric cancer cluster declared by the State for the years 2004-2008 would be expanded to a general brain cancer cluster from 2004-2010."

The lawsuit blames Palm Beach Aggregates, a mining company, and Pratt & Whitney, an aerospace and engines manufacturer, for radioactive waste that allegedly caused the cancers:

"Two types of ionizing radiation, including gamma and/or beta emitting radionuclides, have been detected throughout the Acreage: naturally occurring and non-naturally occurring. Note, "naturally occurring" does not mean naturally present -- only that fission is not required to cause the isotope to be in existence.

30. Those radionuclides that have been detected in the Acreage at above natural background rates but may be termed naturally occurring include Uranium-234, Uranium-235 Uranium-236, and elevated levels of the decay products of Thorium, particularly Lead-214 and Bismuth-214 and Actinium-228. (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material or NORM.) The presence of technologically enhanced concentrations of NORM products (TE-NORMS) in water systems can be associated with the metal processing industry, particularly airplane engine and turbine manufacturing; however, high concentrations of these radionuclides in an environment are more readily associated with mining operations, including the type of shell rock mining conducted by the Aggregates.

31. In addition to TE-NORM, radionuclides have been detected in the Acreage that are not naturally occurring. These include Cesium-137, Iridium-191, and Cadmium-109. Contamination of Iridium-191 and Cadmium-109 is particularly associated with tge metal processing industry generally and with airplane engine and turbine manufacturing and testing of the type conducted by Pratt Whitney at its Palm Beach Facility.

Contamination spread to the nearby aquifer and canals, and the lawsuit blames the two companies.

Here's the lawsuit in full:

Class Action Complaint by Jose D. Duran

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