Read the full article by Erin Rhoda (Bangor Daily News)
“Towns and cities along the Kennebec River are finding that their public drinking water has been contaminated with toxic chemicals. The Capitol building in Augusta, the veterans hospital at Togus, and thousands of homes and businesses in central Maine are connected to pipes filled with water with varying levels of manmade per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, often called forever chemicals.
The Bangor Daily News traced how PFAS can end up in the drinking water of thousands in Skowhegan, Augusta, Manchester, Hallowell, Chelsea, Farmingdale, Gardiner, Randolph and Pittston, through a cycle that ties together the ways of water, industry and waste. The Kennebec River offers a case study in the remarkably complicated PFAS crisis unfolding in Maine.
Landfills send their PFAS-infused runoff to treatment plants; treatment plants then release PFAS-filled wastewater into the river and truck their PFAS-tainted sludge back to landfills; the river is a source of drinking water; and drinking water with PFAS gets sent back down the drain to treatment plants, which repeat the cycle.
‘This is the most complicated thing we’ve ever encountered by far,’ said Brian Tarbuck, the general manager of the Greater Augusta Utility District.
His facility is in the unique position of both discharging treated wastewater from area towns into the Kennebec River and also drawing up drinking water from large riverside wells fed by the Kennebec River. It is one of the few plants that has tested everything: the finished drinking water, the river, the sludge resulting from the wastewater, the waste coming into the system and the treated waste leaving the system. It all has PFAS.
Recent testing of public drinking water systems, required this year under a new state law, is shedding more light on the extent of the contamination and prompting questions about what should be done to stem the flow of chemicals into the river. Water and wastewater facility operators stressed they are only beginning to learn the extent of the problem and their options for responding to it but that reconfiguring wastewater plants could cost tens of millions of dollars for each facility.
One facility, however, is planning to be the first to remove and potentially destroy PFAS that end up in its wastewater. The Anson-Madison Sanitary District will soon begin on-site piloting to test different technologies to remove the chemicals.
‘It’s a health hazard. It needs to be dealt with. You can’t ignore it,’ said Dale Clark, the facility’s superintendent.” …