More than four years ago, the spotlight was turned on The Acreage through a high-profile investigation into a “cancer cluster.” After years of testing, it was determined that rates of pediatric brain cancer were somewhat higher than would be expected in a community the size of The Acreage. However, there were only a handful of cases considered in the finding, and the finding could have been a statistical anomaly or a coincidence.
More testing was done and no explanation was found for the anomaly. The water was declared safe to drink after filtration. But by the time the long fog had lifted, The Acreage found itself bitterly divided on the issue. Some wanted answers, no matter the cost. Others pointed out that the investigation left local property values in tatters.
The sad truth, confirmed then and now by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, is that the cause of most “cancer clusters” is never found. Cases where an entire community is poisoned — such as the California case which made Erin Brockovich famous — are rare. (Not coincidentally, Brockovich was a key player in the Acreage investigation four years ago.)
Most “cancer clusters” reside in a gray area of uncomfortable non-resolution. Yet once again, concerns about the cancer rates in the community have been raised, this time by a law firm representing nine clients, most of them former Acreage residents with victims of cancer in their families. The lawsuit puts the blame on industrial practices of Pratt & Whitney and Palm Beach Aggregates. (Not coincidentally, two of the largest firms operating in central Palm Beach County.)
Though it is important to seek the truth in these new allegations, the community must not allow itself to be divided once again. The most recent lawsuit, announced this week, reopens the still sore wounds that the community has only just begun to heal.
There is still much information to be released on the new allegations from the law firm. Palm Beach County Health Department officials have expressed skepticism about the information, but noted they had not yet received the entire study. More information is expected in the coming weeks, as the law firm seeks class-action status on behalf of the community.
It is unfortunate that the issue is being raised again at a time when The Acreage has many other matters to tackle, but the safety of the community is paramount.
Health officials have pledged to retrace their steps and look again at the studies done in The Acreage several years ago. Meanwhile, more information released by the law firm could bring new issues to light.
Though it is important to be diligent in making sure the community is safe, it is not time to panic. Cooler heads must prevail, though the issue is emotional for many.
To those who feel returning to the issue is futile and damaging, take heart in the fact that the outcome will likely be the same. To those who want answers no matter the cost, we understand that desire, but don’t get your hopes up too high.
We must not point fingers at victims. Furthermore, we must remember that though our neighbors may have differences of opinion on the matter, we are all in this together. The only way to get past whatever may lie ahead is to rally and support our neighbors and The Acreage community.