FAIRFIELD — After the Maine Department of Environmental Protection found high levels of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in the fish ponds on Industrial Drive in Fairfield, the town is recommending that people do not eat the fish from those ponds.

PFAS — short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — are chemicals that are used in a variety of consumer products, including clothing, food packaging and firefighting foams. They have been linked to numerous health problems. The substances do not break down in the environment or in the body; consequently, they’re sometimes called “forever chemicals.”

Fairfield Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said a development project in the area required DEP permitting and inspection, drawing the department’s attention to the location.

The area was a state-permitted sludge-spreading location. Sludge consists of treated wastewater solids that can come from municipal or industrial sources, and is believed to be linked to the PFAS contamination in the Fairfield area.

The DEP tested the nearby fish ponds, and found high concentrations of PFAS, according to David Madore, the deputy commissioner and director of communications for the state agency.

Children 15 or younger can fish without a license, and have previously been allowed to catch and take two fish. The ponds are stocked with fish in the spring and fall by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries.

The department caught a few of the ponds’ fish and is awaiting test results, Madore said.

Meanwhile, the fall stocking of the ponds has been put on hold, Flewelling said. The plan is to continue to allow fishing, but only on a catch-and-release basis. The town is working with state agencies to develop new signs to communicate the change. Once those are installed, the ponds will again be stocked with fish.

“The educational opportunity of learning how to fish still exists,” Flewelling said.

The testing of the fish ponds is part of an ongoing DEP probe into PFAS contamination in the Fairfield area.

Much of the DEP’s investigation has focused on the contamination of residential well water. In total, the department has tested 411 water supplies, and has found 191 with levels of PFAS above the state’s legal limit of 20 parts per trillion for drinking water, according to Madore.

Since July, the department has tested locations in Fairfield, along Six Rod Road, Oakland Road, Davis Road, Norridgewock Road, Ridge Road, Green Road, and Middle Road; in Oakland, along Six Rod Road and Oakland Road; and in Benton, along River Road.

Addendum: This story has been updated with the correct name of Industrial Drive in Fairfield.

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