February 2023 – Recent news reports have Maine residents scrambling to test their drinking water for PFAS and other harmful contaminants. According to Absolute Resource Associates (ARA), a Maine accredited Laboratory, customers have been calling with many questions about PFAS: what it is, how to test for it, and how harmful it is.

“We had one person call saying they’re so shaken up by the news and social media that they want to know how much it would cost to test their water for “everything,” said Jean Gennaro, Director of Marketing at ARA.

Environmental testing laboratories such as ARA provide water analysis based on the latest guidance provided by the EPA and state regulation. For example, the Maine Department of Health & Human Services recommends those with a private well test their drinking water once a year for bacteria and nitrates, and every 5 years for arsenic, fluoride, uranium, radon, lead, and manganese.

Public Water Systems (PWS) test for the most common contaminants on a regular basis, and in 2021, the state of Maine mandated that PWS, Schools & Child Care Providers add PFAS to the list of required tests.

Well owners are not required to test their water, but since you cannot see, taste, or smell most contaminants, the only way to know if well water is safe is to have it tested. More than half of the homes in Maine have a private well, and those living in proximity to former licensed seepage / sludge land application sites are encouraged to have their water tested for PFAS in addition to the other contaminants mentioned.

(As of the writing of this article) Maine currently regulates the following six PFAS contaminants (known as “PFAS6”), with a maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 20 parts-per-trillion (PPT) (alone or in combination):

Maine PFAS6:

  • perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)
  • perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)
  • perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS)
  • perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)
  • perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA)
  • perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA)

Testing guidance for PFAS varies by state as the EPA works to finalize nationwide regulations for this class of harmful chemicals. Proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation was just announced by the EPA this month, and implementation details are expected by the end of 2023.

Funding Available in Maine for PFAS

The EPA recently awarded $19M in grant funding to Maine as part of the “Emerging Contaminants in Small or Disadvantaged Communities (EC-SDC) Grant Program”, which is “geared to provide rural and small communities with access to safe and clean drinking water.” There are also funds set aside for Maine Public Water Supplies, farmers, and well owners who meet criteria for the Maine DEP PFAS Investigation.

Biosolids may contribute to PFAS contamination

How to Test Your Water for PFAS in Maine

Maine residents and businesses are being told that because of recent headlines, increased demand, and a lack of in-state accredited labs, PFAS testing could take up to 2 months and cost between $300 and $400 per sample. However, just over the border in Portsmouth, NH, ARA currently offers Maine accredited PFAS analysis for lower cost, and results typically take just 2 weeks. There are no subcontracting fees since the analysis is done on site, and sampling kits can be shipped throughout Maine by using this water testing kit request form. *Conditions may apply, contact the lab for details.

More PFAS Information and Resources for Maine Residents:

Maine PFAS Task Force Report

Maine PFAS Testing Results- Public Water Systems (PWS)

PFAS Testing Resource for Private Well Owners in Maine

EPA EC-SDC Grant Program for rural communities

EPA Proposed PFAS National Primary Drinking Water Regulation (3/2023)

PFAS Testing Grants for Farmers in Maine