Initial tests show most Maine well water has ‘safe’ PFAS levels​​

By Leela Stockley, Bangor Daily News Staff

An initial round of state testing showed that nearly 75 percent of the wells included in the study had what are considered safe levels of PFAS contamination. 

The samples from more than 1,600 private wells across the state showed that most of the water was safe to consume, the Morning Sentinel reported on Jan. 11. PFAS stands for “polyfluoroalkyl substances,” which are a group of thousands of synthetic chemicals linked to many serious illnesses.

However, the Maine Department of Corrections reported that three out of the five wells at the Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston have high levels of the chemicals. Water from those wells will no longer be used for consumption, and alternative water options will be provided free of cost to staff and residents, the Waterville newspaper reported. 

Maine limits PFAS in drinking water to 20 parts per trillion. It counts six different types of PFAS — alone or in combination — toward that temporary standard.

Now that the initial testing is done, hundreds more wells will be included in a second round of testing for PFAS.  

December test results from 12 Penobscot County water districts have shown little evidence of PFAS contamination, but technology gaps mean that laboratories can’t say for sure that the water supplies are free of the chemicals. 

Of those 12 districts reporting results in early December, three Penobscot County towns were flagged for unacceptable concentrations of the “forever chemicals”: Newport, Dexter and Patten. 

Their levels do not exceed the threshold at which they would be required to filter out the chemicals. 

The biggest water districts in Penobscot County did not detect PFAS in their December reports. Bangor owns or protects 98 percent of the forested watershed surrounding its source of water, Floods Pond in Otis, said Kathy Moriarty, general manager of the Bangor Water District.

However, because PFAS levels can’t always be reliably determined, communities and water systems that find any level of the forever chemicals are encouraged to take steps to mitigate consumption of the substances. One such way to prevent PFAS consumption is to use certified in-home water treatment filters, according to the EPA.

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