Maine officials are warning people who fish and eat fish in seven designated lakes, freshwater streams and other bodies of water about the harmful chemicals PFAS found in fish.
Specifically, the Maine CDC advises people not to consume or limit the consumption of some if not all types of fish from Unity Pond, the Presumpscot River from Saccarappa Falls in Westbrook to Presumpscot Falls in Falmouth, the Mossam River from the bottom of Pond Number One Dam to Outlet Dam on Lake Estes, including Estes Lake, the whole Durepo Pond and Durepo limestone to the dam near Route 229 in limestone, Messalonskee Stream from Rice Rips Dam in Auckland to Automatic Dam at Waterville, Fish Brook, including It any tributaries, from the headwaters to the meeting point with the Messalonkee Stream and the Police Athletic League Ponds.
Communities affected by the counseling include Fairfield, Waterville, Auckland, Limestone, Sanford, Westbrook and Unity.
According to the Maine CDC, “PFAS is a group of man-made chemicals found in a variety of consumer products worldwide. Based on studies in laboratory animals and humans, exposure to certain PFAS chemicals has been associated with changes in liver and kidney function, and changes in cholesterol levels, decreased immune response to vaccines in children, complications during pregnancy, and increased risk of kidney cancer and possibly testicular cancer.”
The agency also said it “collected and tested fish from these water bodies for PFAS because they are located where historical PFOS contamination has been found in groundwater, surface water and/or soil.”
According to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, sources of PFAS in the state have been traced to products such as “certain firefighting foam” and from “various waste streams” such as “sludge and filter” or “leach from unlined landfills.”
An agency website explains that “sludge” is essentially treated wastewater that has been spread over “agricultural land” for its “nutritive value”.
The state says this was a practice that had been in place for decades and was “licensed at the time” because “little was known about PFAS as an emerging contaminant.”
“It definitely annoys me personally,” said Matt Gerten, a Sanford resident who regularly fishes and shoots in Estes Lake, one of the affected bodies of water.
“There are more people fishing now than ever,” he added, explaining that part of his concern about the discovery was how many people across Maine would be affected by it.
“Once the epidemic came on, more people started taking up new hobbies and fishing is one of them,” said Gortin, who also hopes the state will conduct more research on PFAS in fish, to see how wide the problem is.
The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted in its advisory that “fishing in these seven bodies of water remains a safe activity, according to consumption guidelines, along with other recreational activities such as swimming, wading and boating.”
The issue of PFAS in Maine fish has alarmed other people, both in Maine and beyond.
“We are in the early stages of locating the PFAS, and I wish I could say I was shocked, but I am not,” said David Trahan, CEO of Maine Sportsman.
“This is very sad and hard to watch,” he added.
Last Monday, activist Erin Brockovich tweeted about the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, saying “This isn’t far…it’s showing up on your dining table.”