Read the full article by Ethan Genter (Bangor Daily News)
“When the Surry Elementary School learned it had dangerously high levels of hazardous chemicals in its drinking water, it did what most schools do: handed out bottled water and looked for a filtration system.
But the small Hancock County town, nestled between Ellsworth and Blue Hill, decided that such measures weren’t enough. This fall, Surry teamed up with a globally recognized research institute to discover what’s causing the school’s high levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a range of human-made chemicals that have plagued Maine in recent years.
Late last month, the Shaw Institute tested water samples in areas around the school, including in the neighboring town office and in multiple streams. It also has plans to test nearby soil and private wells in an attempt to pinpoint how the school’s drinking water was contaminated with the chemicals, commonly referred to as PFAS.
This type of digging goes beyond state requirements. Maine requires public water systems and schools to have their water tested. Systems that have PFAS at more than 20 parts per trillion need to reduce the level. Many have chosen to install filters, but they aren’t required to root out the cause.
Surry undertook this work because town officials have prioritized the community’s water quality. The institute’s partnership with a testing lab made the effort relatively cheap. Each sample cost about $100 a pop.
‘There was enough concern in the community,’ said Eric Treworgy, the chair of the Select Board. ‘It makes sense to try and dig a little deeper to find where this is coming from.’
The town was first approached by the institute, which pioneered microplastic research in Maine, when news of the school’s tests came out in October. The 146-student pre-K through grade eight school had between 30 and 40 parts per trillion. It is still working on getting a filtration system in place.
‘I was concerned because I live in Surry, and I have two kids in the school,’ said Michelle Berger, an associate scientist at the Shaw Institute who has spearheaded the research. ‘We want to figure out how far the contamination has spread.’
There are no clear causes of the high levels in Surry, though. The fire station next door doesn’t use the foams, and there are no other obvious contamination sources, such as a military base or airport.” …