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Maine expands PFAS contamination investigation

State regulators are working to identify sites in Maine communities where sludge was spread as fertilizer.

CHINA, Maine — A state investigation into testing for so-called 'forever chemicals' is expanding to some Maine towns and communities, including the China Lakes region.

PFAS chemicals were in leftover sludge from wastewater plants. For decades, the sludge was used as a free fertilizer on hundreds of farms across Maine.

Over time those compounds leached into the groundwater. Regulators from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection identified three different sites in the town of China, where sludge was spread, dating back to the '80s and '90s. 

One of the sites — eight acres of farmland located off of Parmenter Hill Road. Another — more than 50 acres of farmland off of Route 32 on the Vassalboro, China town line. Becky Hapgood grew up nearby and is concerned that the groundwater could be contaminated with toxic chemicals. 

"Everything drained from that field into the subdivision that I lived in and down into China Lake. We actually had a well house that supplied eight to 10 houses," Hapgood said. 

Regulators plan to sample soil and surrounding private wells over several months. There is also concern about the run-off into China Lake, a popular spot for fishing and water sports.

"How does it affect those who also may be drawing water for their camps. We need to know what PFAS has done to our community," Hapgood said. 

The DEP contacted town officials in Palermo about its plans to test soil from a farm between Marden Hill Road and North Palermo Road. Regulators said private wells will also be tested within a quarter-mile from the site.

The investigation is expanding from Fairfield, considered a hot spot for PFAS contamination. Unsafe levels of the chemicals were discovered in more than 190 private wells in Fairfield, according to the DEP. The source was sludge used on fields at the Tozier Dairy Farm.

State law mandates every site in Maine where sludge was spread to be tested for PFAS. More than 30 sites out of several hundred have been prioritized for testing, but DEP regulators have yet to release a finalized schedule.

For more information about the DEP's investigation, plus information about water testing, click here.

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