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Officials are testing soil and groundwater to determine extent of PFAS contamination at Bangor base

The Department of Defense said it has evidence of PFAS contamination in the groundwater and soil of the Maine Air National Guard Base in Bangor. The likely source is Aqueous Film Forming Foam, a fire retardant the Air National Guard started using at the base in the 1970s.

Jenna Laube, Environmental Restoration Program Manager with the U.S. Air Force, said the next steps are to determine the full extend of the contamination and the best approach for cleanup.

"We collect more samples to see where it is and how deep it is, what it's near. Then we test feasibility of excavation or pump and treat, or whatever scientifically might work," Laube said.

Laube said the results of these next steps will prioritize which sites are cleaned up first. The Air Force is also investigating potential PFAS contamination at the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone.

Amanda Smith, Bangor's Director of Water Quality Management, said the foam was not discharged into the sewer system, but the city will begin training with the Department of Environmental Protection to determine if PFAS is coming into the wastewater plant from another source.

"They're going to provide training and we're going to begin testing the final product from the wastewater treatment plant. And we'll also begin testing some of the potential sources from various industries that discharge to the sewer," Smith said.

Smith said once the Federal Environmental Protection Agency sets ambient water quality criteria for PFAS in wastewater, Maine's DEP will set discharge limits. The Department of Defense, meanwhile, is taking more soil and groundwater samples to determine the extent of PFAS contamination and the most feasible methods for cleanup at the base.

Carol Bousquet
cbousquet@mainepublic.org