Messalonskee Stream is seen from County Road in Oakland on Thursday, the same day state health officials issued an advisory about consuming fish taken from seven waterways in Maine, including Messalonskee Stream. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

State health officials issued an advisory Thursday warning people to limit consumption of freshwater fish from seven bodies of water in Maine — four of them in central Maine — because of elevated levels of “forever chemicals.”

The advisory issued by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention went a step further with two locations in Fairfield, saying no fish should be consumed at all if caught at ponds owned by the Police Athletic League or at Fish Brook or its tributaries.

Testing by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection also led the state CDC to warn people not to consume more than three meals in a year of fish taken from Messalonskee Stream, from the Rice Rips Dam in Oakland to the Automatic Dam in Waterville.

Health officials also said to limit the consumption of black crappie and other fish taken from Unity Pond in Unity.

Heavy restrictions were additionally placed on fish taken from waters in Limestone, Sanford and Westbrook.

The state DEP found that higher levels of PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” in fish from the seven waterways exceeded the state CDC’s recommended amount for regular consumption, according to the CDC.

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“As we continue to learn more about the health impacts of PFAS, these advisories reflect the best current science,” Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine CDC, said in a statement released to the news media. “They focus on specific areas where higher levels of these chemicals have been detected.”

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, are a group of man-made chemicals created in the 1940s. They are both oil and water repellant, which has made them useful in a variety of consumer products. However, the chemicals have been linked to numerous health problems and do not break down in the body or the environment, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

In Maine, the presence of PFAS has been linked to the spreading of sludge, a wastewater treatment byproduct that was used as a substitute for fertilizer. The DEP has found several locations in central Maine with high levels of PFAS in well water and soil, and is in the process of testing all locations where sludge was spread.

The chemicals have also been found in plants and deer, prompting the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to issue a “do not eat” advisory for deer in the Fairfield area. Testing has detected the chemicals in other animals and food, including chicken eggs.

Fairfield officials had previously placed signs near the Police Athletic League ponds advising against eating the fish.

Other activities, such as swimming, wading and boating, remain safe in the waters identified Thursday, according to the state CDC.

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David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said he was saddened to learn of the fish advisory, but not surprised.

“When it first came out almost a year ago and they found it in deer, I was devastated,” he said. “I said, ‘If it’s in the deer, it’s in everything else.'”

Trahan said he regularly hears from people concerned about the contamination and how it affects them. It will force people to change their hunting and fishing habits, he said, but it will not stop them from doing them altogether.

“They aren’t going to stop,” he said. “They are just going to change their patterns — change where they recreate, where they hunt and fish. I doubt people will stop, because it’s part of our livelihood and our culture.”

The seven locations identified Thursday were chosen for testing because there was PFAS contamination in nearby groundwater, surface water or soil. In addition, the state CDC is reviewing data from other locations where PFAS were found in fish tissue.

“Maine has over 6,000 lakes and ponds, and over 32,000 miles of rivers and streams,” Judy Camuso, commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said in the prepared statement. “This limited advisory on seven waterbodies is a responsible step in keeping anglers, their families and friends healthy.”

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