FAIRFIELD — Many Fairfield residents at a public hearing Wednesday said they opposed a requirement they connect to a public water system that officials are looking to expand as a way to help those with private wells contaminated by PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.”

Several of those at the hearing at the Fairfield Community Center also said they objected to the town’s having to shoulder any of the cost to address a contamination problem it did not create.

More than 100 people gathered for the hearing on the proposed $48 million expansion of the Kennebec Water District, to serve areas of Fairfield affected by “forever chemicals.”

While residents did not seem opposed to the expansion itself, many who spoke said there should not be a requirement they tie into the system.

“Please don’t allow this ordinance to go through. Give us the choice,” resident Alex Poulin said. “Allow us to make the decision.”

During a Town Council meeting that followed the hearing, councilors said they understood frustrations over the mandate. Town Manager Michelle Flewelling said KWD has been clear it will only take over operation of the expanded system if everyone hooks up. District officials have also said the expansion cannot go forward without that requirement.


KWD has said it needs everyone along the planned extension to connect to the system to ensure water is flowing throughout the lines, which is needed to maintain water quality.

KWD officials have said the district’s expenses would increase because of additional meter readings, service calls and other maintenance to the extended system. Revenue from the new customers would ensure KWD is able to cover its costs.

PFAS, or per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of manmade chemicals created in the 1940s. They are used in many consumer goods because they are both oil- and water-repellent, but the chemicals do not break down in the environment or body, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

The contamination in Fairfield has been linked to the spread of sludge, a wastewater treatment byproduct, that was spread on land as fertilizer. The contamination has affected a number of private wells in town, making the water undrinkable without a filtration system.

Nathan Saunders and other residents at the hearing expressed frustration with the possibility the town will pay to expand the public water system, saying Fairfield did not cause the contamination and should not have to pay to correct the problem.

Saunders has filed a lawsuit against several paper mills, alleging they were the source of PFAS in the sludge.


“The residents of Fairfield did not create this problem,” Saunders said. “Because many drinking water wells in Fairfield have been contaminated by industrial sources, safe water needs to be provided to all impacted residents completely — 100% — at the expense of industries that use PFAS and created PFAS contaminated waste that is now in our drinking water and our bodies.”

The state has set a legal limit for PFAS in drinking water at 20 parts per trillion. As the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has tested wells across the state, any home that shows a PFAS level exceeding the legal limit has a carbon filtration system installed. Officials with the state DEP have said the department will pay for the installation and maintenance of the filters, “subject to available funding.”

The filters can be expensive to maintain, and as PFAS contamination has worsened across Maine, municipal officials have been hesitant to rely on DEP funding, concerned that residents will eventually be asked to cover the costs. That concern is what prompted the proposal to expand the Kennebec Water District system to reach affected areas of Fairfield.

Some residents with wells and water filtration systems have objected to switching to town water. They said with their filtration systems, their drinking water had zero PFAS when tested by the state DEP. Meanwhile, KWD’s tests of the water in 2019 showed PFAS levels of about 7 parts per trillion.

Trisha Poulin said she runs a day care in Fairfield and her well was found to have PFAS exceeding the legal limit. Since getting a filtration system, however, she said she has no indication of PFAS in her water.

She said she was concerned about the cost of switching her house and business to public water, especially because she would be giving children at her day care public water that could have a higher level of PFAS than her well water.

“Nobody wants their kid to be put in this situation,” Poulin said, “because I know that it’s been detrimental to my entire family.”

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