WATERVILLE — Test results received by the Kennebec Water District on Tuesday show public water is free from contamination and the district has lifted its advisory warning people not to consume the water.

The district said in a statement that samples show no evidence in the water of firefighting foam, which was used early Monday to battle a deadly fire at an apartment complex for senior citizens near downtown Waterville.

The district instructed customers to run their taps for three to five minutes to flush the lines. They should run taps for at least 15 minutes if foam or a foul odor is detected. Once those steps are taken, the water will be safe for consumption, including for drinking, preparing food and other activities, the district said.

“This was a really stressful situation and challenging for our community, but we’re confident we’ve overcome it,” district General Manager Roger Crouse told the Morning Sentinel.

“(Flushing was) definitely the reason we were able to return to that status of safe water,” Crouse said. “We felt very confident with our flushing efforts to remove the contamination but you can never be completely certain until you get the test results.”

The order to not consume public water was put in place Monday within hours of the fire at Elm Towers on Elm Street.


A device intended to prevent contaminated material from entering the public water system was installed in the wrong location beneath the apartment complex, allowing the firefighting foam to enter the system, Crouse said earlier.

The backflow prevention device was misplaced and as a result did not contain the foam to the water mains below Elm Towers, where one person died and three others were injured in the fire.

The foam is a contaminant and because it spread in the water system beyond the Elm Towers property the water district took the precautionary measure of warning its customers not to consume its water.

Crouse said Elm Towers was built in the early 1970s and where the backflow device was installed is no longer accepted practice with newer construction.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t know the device is located in the wrong place,” Crouse said.

The foam was able to enter the water system through a standpipe that serves the upper floors of the apartment building. The fire occurred in a fourth-floor apartment, and that’s where the person who died was found.


Crouse said the district will not pursue legal action related to the contamination, and said firefighters were not at fault for the foam entering the water system.

“We know this has been terribly disruptive and upsetting for the community,” Crouse said earlier when the do-not-consume order was still in place. “We know that every minute that goes by is a challenge for our community and so we’re working as fast as we can to address this, and we’ll also be working really hard to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

He said the district will launch a review of other properties constructed around the same time as Elm Towers to determine if there are any problems with the installation of backflow prevention devices at those locations.

The district contracted with a Scarborough lab, Katahdin Analytical Services, to test water samples.

The warning led to a run on bottled water in the area Monday and Tuesday. The water district serves customers in Waterville, Winslow, Vassalboro, Fairfield and Benton. It also provides water to Maine Water, which is the utility that serves Oakland.

Poland Spring provided about 20,000 bottles of water that were distributed Tuesday to people at the Oakland fire station.


Waterville firefighters also were handing out bottles at their station.

“We’ve gone through five pallets of water at this point,” Waterville fire Chief Shawn Esler said Tuesday.

He said firefighters also were delivering water bottles to residents who were homebound and unable to travel to the fire station.

Many people in the area rushed to supermarkets and grocers to stock up on bottled water.

A store manager at Joseph’s Market on Front Street said the market’s limited stock of water “went fast” on Monday night when the do-not-consume order was enacted.

“We’re not sold out but we only have about six gallons left and some small bottles,” manager Danny McKinnis said earlier Tuesday.


Pleau’s Market in Winslow was sold out of bottled water by 6 p.m. Monday, store manager Rob Pleau said.

“I just had a pallet of Poland Spring dropped off that morning, just the normal stock, and it was gone in a day,” Pleau said.

Managers at Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets in Waterville declined to comment.

The contamination concern also led several eateries to alter their offerings Tuesday. One restaurant, Erica’s on College Avenue in Waterville,  shared on Facebook that it would close until the advisory was lifted.

Cafes in downtown Waterville like Selah Tea and Holy Cannoli limited their beverage offerings to not include brewed coffee on Tuesday.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story