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Kennebec Water District water is unsafe to drink after fire fighting foam enters the system

The Kennebec Water District office in Waterville, Maine on Monday May 5, 2023.
Andrew Catalina
Maine Public
The Kennebec Water District office in Waterville, Maine on Monday May 5, 2023.

A Monday morning fire at a Waterville public housing complex has led to a do not drink water order for the Kennebec Water District.

The district covers Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield and Benton. The fire department responded early Monday morning to reports of a fire at Elm Towers. Channel 8 reported that one person died and others were injured as a result.

The cause of the fire is not known. But the do not drink order stems from fire fighting foam entering the district's water distribution system.

General manager Roger Crouse said first responders pumped the foam into the complex's fire suppression system. But the complex did not have a backflow prevention system to keep the foam from entering the water service, Crouse said.

"We know it's a big inconvenience and a big stress on everyone in the community to have this happen," he said. "But we're confident we're going to take care of this."

Crouse said he believes the contamination is limited to the Elm Street area in Waterville. But the do not drink order extends to the entire district out of an abundance of caution. He said the district's water supply, China Lake, is safe.

The do not drink order will be ongoing until water tests show it is safe to drink, Crouse said. The district's team is working on flushing the foam out of the system at various points.

The water is safe to bathe in but not drink. The district is advising people to run water in a bathtub or outside spigot for 15 to 20 minutes if unusual foaming occurs.

Reporter Caitlin Andrews came to Maine Public in 2023 after nearly eight years in print journalism. She hails from New Hampshire originally.