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What Are PFAS?

What are PFAS Chemicals?

PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a large group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used around the world since the 1940s for many industrial and consumer purposes including the coating of fabrics, nonstick cookware, food packaging, and firefighting foam.

These chemicals can accumulate over time and have been found in both the environment and the human body. They do not break down easily in the environment or the human body and are sometimes called “forever chemicals”.

Of these chemicals, the most extensively produced and studied have been PFOA and PFOS.

Are PFAS in My Drinking Water?

At this time, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and regulators in Maine and states across the country are working to develop appropriate standards for these chemicals in drinking water. Maine Water will be engaged with our industry colleagues and regulators as the process continues, to ensure we best meet the needs of our customers.

Maine Water is in full compliance with Maine Drinking Water Program and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards and the guidelines for risk assessment of all water sources and systems as well as all the monitoring and testing requirements under the Unregulated Contaminate Monitoring Rule (UCMR) to date.

The company voluntarily started testing our water systems for PFAS in late 2019 and has completed testing of all of our water supplies.  Our results are listed in the table below:

MAINE WATER COMPANY SYSTEM

DATE SAMPLED

PFAS TOTAL

REPORTED UNITS

Are Results above the EPA Health Advisory Level of 70 ng/L?

Biddeford Saco

10/7/2019

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Bucksport

2/4/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Camden Rockland

2/4/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Freeport

1/13/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Greenville

1/21/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Hartland

1/21/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Kezar Falls

1/13/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Millinocket

9/11/2019

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Millinocket

9/11/2019

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Oakland

1/21/2020

6.96

ng/L

 

NO

Skowhegan

1/21/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Union

2/4/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

Warren

2/4/2020

Not Detected

ng/L

 

NO

 

Note:  The source water for Oakland is supplied from Kennebec Water District (KKW).  We have notified KKW of the results of our testing. 

 

How Do PFAS Enter the Environment?

 How Do PFAS Enter The Environment?

How these chemicals get into groundwater is still being studied, but PFAS in drinking water usually comes from a nearby source such as a facility where it is produced, used or disposed.

PFAS can also enter water sources from Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) used for firefighting at military bases and airports and fire-fighting training facilities.

 

What are the current drinking water standards?

There are currently no state or federal drinking water quality standards (Maximum Contaminant Level or MCL) for any chemical in the PFAS family.

In 2016, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established a health advisory for PFOA and PFOS levels at 70 parts per trillion (ppt). This target concentration is for either contaminant alone or for the sum of the two.

The EPA issued a PFAS Action Plan in February 2019 with a goal to identify EPA-led short-term actions, longer-term research, and potential regulatory approaches designed to reduce the risks associated with PFAS in the environment.

In the absence of federal standards, several states have adopted their own standards. You can read more about that here: https://www.epa.gov/pfas

 

PFAS in Maine

Maine Governor Janet Mills established a PFAS Task Force in March of 2019, by executive order, to review the extent of PFAS contamination in Maine and provide recommendations on how to protect Maine residents from exposure.The PFAS Task Force reviewed information from a variety of sources, including results of sampling submitted by DEP-licensed facilities and sampling conducted by State of Maine agencies, as well as various health studies, and solicited input from stakeholders and other members of the public.” Their final report, released in January 2020, can be found here: https://www1.maine.gov/pfastaskforce/materials/report/PFAS-Task-Force-Report-FINAL-Jan2020.pdf

 

Health Effects

Nearly everyone has low levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood ( https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/pfas-blood-testing.html ) , likely from their widespread use in consumer products and food packaging.

PFAS can remain in the human body for a long time, and can build up over time. Because of this, even low levels in drinking water can be a health risk if exposure is long term, but having PFAS exposure or PFAS in your body does not mean you will necessarily have health problems now or in the future.

The advisory guidelines by the EPA are set based on daily exposure to the most vulnerable consumers. If you are a sensitive consumer, including pregnant women, nursing mothers and infants, you may choose to minimize your exposure by not drinking water that has found PFAS in water quality testing. Please be advised, however, that PFAS have been found in some bottled water. Ensure that your bottled water supply is PFAS-free or that you’re utilizing additional at home water treatment measures, as outlined below.

 

What Are Ways to Minimize Exposure?

If you are concerned about your exposure, you may want to use bottled water or tap water with non-detect PFAS levels for drinking, cooking, and making infant formula. Even though the risk is very low, you may also want to use water with non-detect PFAS levels for brushing your teeth, washing produce, and cleaning items like dentures or pacifiers. It is okay to bathe and shower in water that contains PFAS, as these compounds are not well absorbed through the skin. Boiling water does not lower PFAS levels and is not recommended as it may slightly increase the concentration of PFAS in the water.

You can also use an at home water treatment system that is certified to remove PFAS by an independent testing group such as National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Water Quality Association or the CSA group.

If you have specific health concerns related to PFAS exposure, you may want to consult your doctor or health professional.

 

 

Is My Water Safe?

Yes, water supplied by Maine Water is in compliance with all state and federal drinking water standards and continues to be safe for all use.  If there are further requirements for PFAS testing or additional information becomes available on the health considerations or drinking water standards for PFAS, we will communicate to customers.  

 

 

What Actions is Maine Water Taking to Address These Chemicals and Protect Consumers?

As EPA, DEP, and the Maine legislature develop further testing protocols, assessment guidelines, and standards, Maine Water will continue to meet any requirements for monitoring and testing of our systems.

Beginning in late 2019, we voluntarily and proactively began testing for PFAS in our drinking water sources using a tiered approach risk assessment.  Results associated with this testing can be found at: https://www.mainewater.com/water-quality

 

More Information and Fact Sheets:

Maine DEP Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Updates:

https://www1.maine.gov/dep/spills/topics/pfas/index.html

Maine Drinking Water Program:

https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/environmental-health/dwp/index.shtml

United States Environmental Protection Agency:

https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas