In this Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, Sappi North America's Skowhegan mill is seen. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

A Fairfield man alleges that a Skowhegan paper mill is the source of “forever chemicals” that have contaminated numerous area wells.

The Waterville Morning Sentinel reported that attorney Brian Mahaney has filed a class-action lawsuit against Sappi North America on behalf of Nathan Saunders and others in Somerset County who have been exposed to per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds.

That lawsuit, filed Friday in Somerset County Superior Court, is seeking an unspecified level of damages.

Since 2020, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection has been investigating “forever chemical” contamination in Fairfield, where at least 29 wells have levels exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum limit of 70 parts per trillion, according to the newspaper.

In January, chemical levels in Saunders’ well were measured at 12,910 parts per trillion, the Sentinel reported.

The lawsuit accuses Sappi’s Somerset Mill in Skowhegan of being the source of the contamination, claiming that the chemicals came from biosolids in the mill’s wastewater treatment plant that were spread as sludge.

Olga Karagiannis, a spokesperson for Sappi, said Monday afternoon that the company “strongly disputes” claims that “forever chemical” contamination originated from its Skowhegan mill.

“Sappi is well known for its record of environmental stewardship at the Somerset mill and at all of its manufacturing facilities,” Karagiannis said, adding that Sappi has yet to be served with the lawsuit.

Other lawsuits are expected from those whose health problems are reportedly linked to the contamination.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds first came into use in the 1940s, and were widely used for their water-, grease- and stain-resistant properties. But the chemicals are not easily broken down in either the environment or human body, which is why they are often referred to as “forever chemicals.”

Exposure to them is linked to increased risk of health problems and certain cancers.