KITTERY, Maine – City and state officials have found that some residents’ well water systems show elevated levels of per and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), others show higher levels of arsenic.
Routine PFAS testing of test wells near the Kittery Resource Recovery Facility, known as the city’s landfill or transfer station, by the state Department of Environmental Protection showed elevated levels of contaminants in three of the wells at the north end of the property. PFAS is a contaminant of concern that scientists believe can cause adverse health effects if consumed in drinking water.
The city and Maine DEP have begun contacting nearby homeowners to test their residential wells for PFAS. City Manager Kendra Amaral outlined the testing process in a report to city council this week, saying wells at 19 residences have been tested, with results from 15 already reported. Of the results that came back, four residences showed higher PFAS levels in their well systems and three showed elevated arsenic levels.
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The concern is that the Old City landfill, closed by state order in 1993, was the source of the PFAS because leachate from covered waste stores in landfills can sometimes contain large amounts of chemicals. However, Amaral said, the DEP indicated that the high arsenic levels may not have come from the landfill, but rather from a natural source.
“Arsenic occurs naturally in Maine and in bedrock, so it’s not clear if this arsenic is from the resource recovery facility or if it’s just part of that natural bedrock,” he said. Amaral told members of the city council. “The DEP said that if you see PFAS and arsenic together, that indicates it’s probably the closed dump, but if you see arsenic and not PFAS, it’s possible that it’s or simply what occurs naturally in bedrock. So there are still a lot of unanswered questions and not much clarity about the sources yet. »
Where are the contaminated wells and what do we do?
Wells were tested in homes on several city streets: Pettigrew, Wilson and Fernald roads, Jewett and Shade Tree lanes and Evergreen Drive. A well at a residence on Bolt Hill Road, along the municipal boundary of Eliot and Kittery, was also tested.
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Two of the four houses with high PFAS in their wells are on Jewett Lane. Another is on Pettigrew Road and the last is on Bolt Hill Road. The city is awaiting results for four properties on Wilson Road.
Last June, the state legislature passed an interim drinking water standard related to PFAS. The standard, which is 20 nanograms of chemical per liter of water (ng/L), is the combined sum of the six different PFAS chemicals. Four homes in Kittery had wells that recorded levels above the state standard.
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The city provided bottled water to affected residents. With the help of Kittery State Rep. Kristi Mathieson, Amaral said, the city confirmed that DEP would fully reimburse the city for its bottled water service and for testing the wells.
Tests for each well cost just over $1,000. “It’s helpful because…we’re getting close to $30,000,” Amaral said of the state refund.
What is the test plan?
Amaral said DEP no longer wants to test wells in city residences, but may want to get additional samples from wells already tested.
“The DEP is coming back and asking for additional testing on the wells that we’ve already tested just to try to get more details on what could be the source of the contaminants,” she said. “They’re also looking at the geology of that area in terms of where the bedrock is, if there are any fractures or cracks that could change the way the water flows.
“Because it’s actually quite strange that the properties closest to the closed landfill don’t actually indicate high PFAS,” she continued. “These are the ones that are a little more distant and quite sporadic. So there are homes that are right next to each other that they don’t see high PFAS, but another one does, or they don’t see high arsenic, but another one does.
Amaral spoke with the Kittery Water District about extending the district’s water line to every home tested for PFAS, a project she said would cost $750,000. The city will soon be sending out a survey to residents asking if they want to be connected to the Kittery Water District line, prefer a carbon filtration system, or don’t want to do anything.
Found in manufactured items like carpets, fabrics, clothing, food packaging, cookware, and personal care products, two of the main PFAS chemicals are perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). . Other PFAS chemicals include perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA), and perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS).
The state’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has flagged some of the possible negative health effects people may experience if they have higher concentrations of PFAS in their bloodstream. Included on the list, as identified by the Federal Register of Toxic Substances and Diseases, are increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, high cholesterol levels, and changes in liver enzyme levels. .
Pregnant women can also suffer from high blood pressure and preeclampsia due to the presence of PFAS in their bloodstream, and it can also reduce an infant’s birth weight, but not necessarily enough to endanger their health. .