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Environment and Outdoors
The Rural Maine Reporting Project is made possible through the generous support of the Betterment Fund.

Maine is close to wrapping up PFAS investigation in Fairfield. Then, a larger testing program is coming

PFAS farms
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
In this Thursday Aug. 15, 2019 photo, dairy farmer Fred Stone pauses while working in the milking room at his farm in Arundel, Maine. Fred Stone and his wife Laura, whose dairy farm is contaminated by toxic chemicals known collectively as PFAS, so-called "forever chemicals," have high PFAS levels in their blood.

Maine environmental officials said Wednesday that they are close to wrapping up an investigation into the state's largest cluster of wells contaminated with "forever chemicals," known as PFAS. But the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is also preparing to launch a much broader —and more expensive — testing program for the potential harmful chemicals.

It's been more than a year since state regulators first discovered milk on a Fairfield dairy farm that contained more than 150 times the state's allowable level of PFAS. Since then, 191 water sources in Fairfield and surrounding towns have been found to contain more of the industrial compounds than the state says is safe to drink. The common link? Contaminated sludge spread as fertilizer on nearby farm fields.

DEP officials told members of the Maine Board of Environmental Protection that they are starting to wrap up the Fairfield-area investigation. But sludge or waste from paper mills and other facilities was spread on more than 700 sites through Maine. The department will soon announce which sites will receive top priority for testing. The Mills administration budgeted $25 million for PFAS testing, clean-up and installation of water filtration systems.