- State told two schools last year to stop drinking the water after detecting PFAS
- Levels of forever chemicals far exceeded the state’s limit of 20 parts per trillion
- READ MORE: Shocking reality of living in America’s ‘forever chemical’ hotspot
Students returning to two schools in Maine will be barred from drinking from the fountain after high levels of PFAS chemicals were found in their drinking supply.
Students at Mill Pond and Hodgson Middle/High School in Aroostook county, located on the border with Canada, will start the year drinking only bottled water until the filtration installation project for the tap water is completed.
The two schools were the first in the county to test for PFAS over a year ago and found that levels had reached up to 34 parts per trillion, far more than the 20 parts per trillion safe level required by the state.
School administrators had hoped that new carbon treatment systems would have solved the problem by the time classes resumed, but the project is not expected to be completed until late November.
Two schools located in Hodgdon, Maine were ordered last year to keep children and staff from drinking water from water fountains and faucets after it was found that both schools’ water PFAS levels far exceeded the state max of 20 parts per trillion
The school system is in the process of installing filtration systems that will eliminate the vast majority of PFAS from water, but it is a pricy endeavor that will not be complete until November at the earliest. Until then, children and staff will rely on bottled water
It’s an expensive goal that school superintendent Tyler Putnam said will cost more than the $120,000 grant from the Maine Drinking Water Program.
Mr Putnam said: ‘I know this is kind of an annoyance for people, you understand that this is a process that we have to kind of go through, and it’s not an immediate fix but we’re so happy that we have a community that’s so supportive.’
The state told the school district of Hodgdon in December to immediately stop using water at the schools because of dangerously high PFAS levels.
The district then opted to install a carbon treatment system in which activated carbon absorbs organic and synthetic compounds and filters them out.
Mr Putnam added: ‘We are looking at probably late November to switch back to using the water system. We are making sure the water coming in is treated correctly.’
The schools switched to bottled water only last year and will continue to be the norm until state testing confirms that the tap water is safe to drink.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are microscopic, man-made chemicals that can take thousands of years to break down in the environment or in the human body, hence the name ‘forever chemicals’.
PFAS chemicals lend cookware their nonstick quality and raincoats the ability to repel water. They can also be found in firefighting foam and runoff from factories that seep into the groundwater.
PFAS also often lines food packaging that ends up in landfills where they can leach into the soil and air over time.
The chemicals seep into the water supply through a variety of mechanisms.
Industrial sites and military bases often produce PFAS runoff, as do agricultural sites that use PFAS-laden pesticides as well as sewage treatment plants.
Most of the studies examining a relationship between cancer and PFAS has honed in on one of roughly 12,000 chemicals, PFOA.
For example, a 2020 report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that elevated levels of PFOA in the bloodstream nearly doubled a person’s risk of developing renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer.
A 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Health examined breast cancer rates in Inuit women in Greenland.
The women in the study who had breast cancer also had higher levels of PFOA and another chemical called PFOS in their blood.
They also found that women with breast cancer had higher levels of another group of chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Women exposed to the chemicals while pregnant have also been shown to be more likely to give birth to an underweight baby.
And the odds that a pregnant woman in the US will have been exposed to PFAS are high – a CDC report estimated that 97 percent of Americans have PFAS in their blood.