Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

What is PFAS?

PFAS refers to a group of man-made chemicals known as Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances. There are thousands of varieties of these chemicals including the six PFAS chemicals which are included in, Resolve 2021, Chapter 82 (Resolve, To Protect Consumers of Public Drinking Water by Establishing Maximum Contaminant Levels for Certain Substances and Contaminants) and listed below:

  • Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • Perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS)
  • Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
  • Perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS)
  • Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)
  • Perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA)

As early as the 1940's, PFAS (mostly PFOA and PFOS earlier on) became widely used in household products and industrial settings. These chemicals were also historically used in firefighting foams due to their effectiveness at quickly extinguishing petroleum-based fires. Because they have a unique ability to repel oil, grease, water and heat, PFAS are used in many common products that we use regularly. For example, they have been used to make non-stick cookware, stain-resistant carpets and furniture, water-resistant clothing, heat-resistant paper/cardboard food packaging (like microwave popcorn and pizza boxes), and some personal care products. PFAS break down very slowly and are persistent in the environment. This means that PFAS may build up in people, animals, and the environment over time. Health agencies are working to understand more about the health effects of low level, long-term exposure.

Potential Health Impacts from PFAS:

  • Decreases in fertility or increases in high blood pressure in pregnant women
  • Reduced ability of the body's immune system to fight infections including reduced vaccine response
  • Child development puberty, bone variations, or behavioral changes
  • Increased risk of some cancers including prostate, kidney, and testicular cancers
  • Interference with the body's natural hormones
  • Increased cholesterol levels and/or risk obesity

Where is PFAS in Maine?

Maine Sludge and Septage Mapper and Maine PFAS Mapper, please direct any feedback to

PFAS have been found in Maine in a number of places including: agricultural sites, drinking water supplies, surface waters, landfills, wastewater, sludge and septage spreading sites, and remediation and cleanup sites. In general, PFAS can enter the environment through direct releases from specific PFAS-containing products (e.g., certain firefighting foams), from various waste streams (sludge and septage when land applied, leachate from unlined landfills), and other pathways still being researched. In Maine, sludge and septage that may contain PFAS was applied to various “sites” for nutrient value. This activity was licensed because at the time little was known about PFAS as an emerging contaminant. 

Sludge is a solid, semi-solid, or liquid waste generated from a wastewater treatment process as well as from dewatered septage. Wastewater is used water that can include substances such as domestic, commercial, and industrial waste; food scraps; fats, oils, and grease; soaps; and chemicals and can be generated by households, businesses, and industry. Wastewater treatment systems treat this used water so that it can be recycled back into the environment. Sludge is a byproduct that has been spread for decades on agricultural land as a way to supplement farmland with nutrients.

Septage is a fluid mixture of sewage solids, liquids and sludge of domestic origin, which is collected in and removed from a septic tank system. Once a septic system is pumped out the septage must be disposed of.  Land application of septage is the most common and economical way to utilize it. Typically septage is land applied in areas that are more remote, but residential developments can be later built in those areas.

Bureau of General Services (BGS) Associated Documents

Stakeholder Meetings

For further information, please visit the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website. Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)