Study Shows That Several Public Water Supplies In Maine Contain PFAS Chemicals

Oct 30, 2019

A new report by the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that about half of the public water supplies that it tested contained PFAS chemicals.

Colby College Environmental Sciences Professor Gail Carlson voices her concern over PFAS and phalate contamination in food products at the State House in April 2019.
Credit Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

The CDC paid for testing of 19 public water supplies that are near potential sources of PFAS contamination, including airports, landfills, paper mills or sludge spreading operations, among others. The results were turned over to the Governor's PFAS Task Force Tuesday.

PFAS are a family of chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other health problems. In a press release, the Executive Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Portland and member of the task force, Mike Belliveau, says "The most recent drinking water test results add to the growing concern about the public health threat posed by PFAS, the so-called ‘forever chemicals,’ These highly toxic chemicals don’t belong in anyone’s drinking water supply. State action is needed to protect our water and food supply from these toxic chemicals."

An “unanticipated outcome” of the study was that 17 systems selected refused the testing, including five schools, a day care center, three water districts, seven mobile home parks and a cold storage facility.

“Ask those schools and a daycare center and three towns that were offered free testing for those chemicals by the state, and we think they do a great disservice to their consumers and show a disregard for children's health,” Belliveau says.

In its summary, the CDC says given the high percentage of water systems that declined to take part, the agency is discussing another approach to "generate a robust and meaningful dataset."

Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson from the CDC shared a statement, saying, “The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Drinking Water Program has recommended to the PFAS Task Force that monitoring for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances become mandatory for all community water systems. Based on the data collected through the recent voluntary testing that has been completed, we believe this is a responsible and appropriate course of action.”

Water systems in Lisbon Falls, Topsham, Georgetown, Arundel, Livermore Falls, Sanford, Mexico and Fayette tested positive for PFAS chemicals.

Also in its summary, the CDC says “the estimated cost to sample the remaining Community water systems (approximately 325) would be significant (estimated at $115,500-$231,000) and would likely need to be shared by the water systems and their ratepayers.”

Updated 4:47 p.m. Oct. 30, 2019