Fairfield-Area PFAS Investigation

Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly asked questions received from homeowners and tenants in the Fairfield area with DEP staff responses are listed below. We will update this list as more information becomes available. To receive electronic notification for this and other Fairfield area PFAS updates, click to sign up.

Why has my neighbor's well been sampled but not mine?

Your well may be just outside an area of sampling or results of nearby wells may have shown that PFAS is non-detect. It also could mean that your well may not have been included in the most recent round of sampling but may be sampled in the near future. DEP has established a prioritization system to decide where to sample for PFAS contamination in wells. First, DEP takes into consideration information about potential sources, soils, the prevailing direction of groundwater flow, and existing test results to determine the areas that are likely to have the highest potential risk. Once these areas are identified, DEP conducts a phased approach to sampling which may be broadened over time based on an evaluation of results. This means that sampling starts closest to the areas identified as highest potential risk, and then sampling generally continues outward. How far out the sampling continues is based on an evaluation of results including whether there have been any exceedances of the standard. If sample results get lower and lower as sampling continues outward sampling will be reduced. At this time, DEP is beginning to apply the Interim Drinking Water Standard of 20 ppt to the sum of 6 PFAS (PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, PFHpA, and PFDA). Governor Mills just recently signed into law LD 129, Resolve, To Protect Consumers of Public Drinking Water by Establishing Maximum Contaminant Levels for Certain Substances and Contaminants. This Interim Drinking Water Standard of 20 ppt will be used in lieu of the U.S. EPA Health Advisory Level of 70 ppt. Please email us if you have any questions about sampling.

A filter system was just installed at my home, when can I start drinking the water?

Once a filter system has been installed, DEP will collect water samples to demonstrate that your water is safe to drink. An alternative source of drinking water will be provided until DEP informs you that your treatment system is effective.

Upon installation, water is sampled in multiple locations: before entering the filter, between the two filters, and after the water exits the filter system to verify that the system is working correctly and effectively. After installation, DEP will conduct sampling periodically to verify the system is working properly over the long-term. Maintenance of the system will be conducted periodically by DEP or by its designee based on this periodic sampling data and availability of funding.

I'm hearing that some of the filter systems being installed might not be safe or effective; why does DEP say that they are working correctly?

The effectiveness of a filter system depends on many different factors including input contaminant concentrations, water use, filter size, and type of filter. In general, the filter systems being installed are dual stage carbon filters with a coconut shell-based carbon. This means that two canisters filled with carbon are being installed so that contaminant concentrations can be monitored before the first filter, after going through the first filter (between sample), and after going through the second filter. This is all done before the water is deemed safe to drink. The between sample is able to tell us whether any type of contaminant breakthrough through the first filter is occurring and helps us to decide when to replace the filter media. In a few systems, the filter media has had to be replaced at a more frequent schedule than anticipated; however, the sample taken after the second filter shows the water is still safe to drink. This stresses the importance of monitoring and maintaining a system regularly.

I'm interested in buying property in an area that has been identified as impacted, will DEP pay for the installation of a filter system if I install a well and it needs treatment?

The DEP's current focus is on providing safe water to drink for those households that already have wells installed and are drinking impacted water. We can provide technical assistance to you if youre concerned about installing a well in a particular area or if youd like general information about the kinds of DEP-licensed sites near your property. Please email us with your questions.

Why am I being asked to sign a filter system agreement with the state?

The filter system agreement outlines DEP's responsibilities and commitment to provide treatment systems at PFAS-impacted homes and monitor and maintain those systems. The agreement also outlines a homeowners responsibility to provide access to DEP or DEPs designee for filter system installation, monitoring and maintenance, and notification to DEP if ownership or occupancy changes. The agreement protects both DEP and the homeowner by establishing clear and consistent expectations that both parties must follow to ensure an effective treatment system is installed, monitored, and maintained.

DEP hasn't identified my well as at risk, can I sample my own water supply?

Yes, DEP encourages homeowners that are interested to sample their own water supply if certain sampling protocols are followed and a Maine-certified laboratory is used. Specific sampling requirements must be followed to avoid potential cross-contamination of the sample. Please read DEP's PFAS sampling requirements for additional information or email with questions and for technical assistance.

Who is paying for the filter systems and their maintenance?

Subject to available funding, DEP is paying for the installation and maintenance of the filter systems for private residential water supplies where Maine's Interim Drinking Water Standard has been exceeded. DEP is pursuing additional funding and other remedies for a long-term sustainable strategy and to ensure affected homeowners have safe water to drink.

My well tested below the Interim Drinking Water Standard but I'd still like to have a filter system installed. Where can I get information about installing my own system?

There are several water treatment vendors throughout Maine that install systems to treat for PFAS. While DEP is not able to provide a recommendation for a particular vendor, there are a few considerations for selection including treatability and certification. EPA's Drinking Water Treatability Database is a useful tool that provides information on the control of contaminants in drinking water. You can use the database to search for PFAS and evaluate the different treatment processes that have been shown to be effective in treatment for several different kinds of PFAS. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) recently began certifying filters that can reduce two PFAS compounds, PFOA and PFOS. NSF is an independent, accredited organization that tests and certifies products and systems to protect and improve human health. To find products certified for reduction of PFOA and PFOS by NSF International, visit NSFs certification listings. NSF International verifies that the contaminant reduction claims for PFOA and PFOS shown on the label are true; the system does not add anything harmful to the water; the system is structurally sound; and the product labeling, advertising, and literature are not misleading.

What sources of PFAS are there in the environment?

PFAS has been used since the 1940s in numerous household and industrial products. These chemicals were used to make carpet, fabric, clothing, food packaging, pots and pans, and personal care products to repel water and resist stains and grease. PFAS are persistent in the environment which means that they don't break down easily and almost everyone has some levels of these chemicals in their bodies. In the environment, PFAS has been found in residential septic systems, near airports where certain firefighting foams were used, near factories that used these chemicals, on land where the application of wastewater treatment plant sludge has occurred, and in landfill leachate.

I have questions about how PFAS may affect my health, who can I call?

If you have questions about blood testing or health effects from PFAS, please contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ask to speak to a toxicologist at 866-292-3474 (toll-free in Maine), 207-287-4311, or Maine Relay 711.

If you are concerned about a known PFAS exposure, it is best to talk with your doctor to decide whether to test for these chemicals.

I have a garden and am concerned about eating the vegetables I grow; will DEP test my soil and who should I call if I have questions about PFAS uptake in vegetables?

DEP understands that homeowners may have concerns about eating vegetables grown in or near at-risk areas; however, our current focus is to provide safe drinking water for homeowners with impacted wells. Because there is limited funding, DEP is not providing soil testing services at this time. If you have questions about PFAS in your vegetables, please contact the Maine CDC at 866-292-3474 (toll-free in Maine), 207-287-4311, or Maine Relay 711 and ask to speak to a toxicologist who can explain more about the uptake of PFAS in plants.