Students returning to two schools in Maine will be banned from drinking from the fountain after high levels of PFAS chemicals were found in their drinking water supplies.
Hundreds of students at Mill Pond and Hodgdon Middle/High School in Aroostook County, located on the Canadian border, will start the year drinking only bottled water until the tap water filtration installation project is complete.
The two schools were the first in the county to test for PFAS more than a year ago and found that levels had reached as high as 34 parts per billion, far higher than the safe level of 20 parts per billion required by the state.
School administrators hoped that the new carbon treatment systems would have solved the problem when classes resumed, but the project is not expected to be finished until the end of November.
Two schools located in Hodgdon, Maine, were ordered last year to prevent children and staff from drinking water from fountains and taps after PFAS levels in the water at both schools were found to far exceed the state maximum. of 20 parts per billion.
The school system is in the process of installing filtration systems that will remove the vast majority of PFAS from the water, but it is an expensive undertaking 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 for school superintendent Tyler Putnam to saying It will cost more than the $120,000 grant from the Maine Drinking Water Program.
Mr Putnam said: “I know this is kind of a bummer for people, you guys understand this is a process we have to go through, and it’s not an immediate fix, but we’re really glad to have a community that’s so supportive. .”
In December, the state told the Hodgdon school district to stop using water in schools immediately due to dangerously high levels of PFAS.
It came amid an increase state-orchestrated water testing of schools, water districts, nursing homes and some housing developments
The district then chose to install a carbon treatment system in which activated carbon absorbs organic and synthetic compounds and filters them out.
Putnam added: “We’re probably looking at the end of November to go back to using the water system.” We make sure that the water that comes in is treated correctly.”
Schools switched to bottled water just last year and it will remain the norm until state tests confirm tap water is safe to drink.
The two Maine schools are far from the only ones, not only in the state but also in the entire country, that have initiated efforts to test water believed to be contaminated.
In 2020, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency began testing 90 percent of the state’s public water systems that feed 250 Ohio schools and day care centers for chemicals.
Also in 2020, Massachusetts government officials ordered testing of student water supplies in two cities, New Salem and Wendell.
After test results showed high levels of certain PFAS chemicals, school boards in both cities authorized the installation of special filtration systems.
And in Michigan, five years ago, the state announced water testing for some 460 schools as well as 1,380 public water systems, a $1.7 million undertaking.
An Indian school located on the Leech Lake Band Indian Reservation in north central Minnesota has also launched its own tests in the absence of extensive testing by the government. The drinking water wells at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School were contaminated with PFAS.
Further investigation into the area found that two people who had worked at the school died of cancer, while several female employees have thyroid problems.
Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) 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 “eternal chemicals.”
PFAS chemicals give cookware its non-stick quality and waterproof cookware its ability to repel water. They can also be found in firefighting foam and factory runoff that seeps into groundwater.
PFAS also often coat food packaging that ends up in landfills, where it can leach into the soil and air over time.
Chemicals leach 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 wastewater treatment plants.
Most studies examining the relationship between cancer and PFASs have focused on one of approximately 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 Enviromental 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).
It has also been shown that women exposed to these chemicals during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a low birth weight baby.
And the chances are high that a pregnant woman in the US has been exposed to PFASs: a CDC report estimated that 97 percent of Americans have PFAS in their blood.