DFI&W is still waiting on further testing to determine the severity of "forever chemical" contamination in the deer herd there.
In this April 11, 2022, file photo, a group of doe graze in a yard in Dedham. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Hunters who plan to pursue deer in Fairfield and some surrounding areas this season should be aware that a “do not eat” advisory remains in effect because of “forever chemical” contamination.

On Nov. 23, 2021, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued a warning to deer hunters not to eat the meat of animals harvested in Greater Fairfield. The decision came after deer samples taken near a dairy farm known to be contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, showed elevated levels of the compounds.

Last summer, the state conducted more in-depth sampling of deer, turkeys and other wildlife in the Fairfield area to better understand the impact of PFAS on animals there. The intent was to test more animals in a larger area, up to five miles outside what has become ground zero for PFAS contamination in Maine.

The wildlife department is still waiting for the results.

“We are at the mercy of the PFAS testing laboratories, and as you can imagine, they are overloaded with requests for testing,” spokesperson Mark Latti said.

Latti said the state expected to have the information in hand within four weeks, but it has now been 41 days since the samples were submitted.

The wildlife department hoped to provide updated PFAS guidance before the start of the firearms season on deer. The expanded archery and bowhunting and crossbow seasons are already well underway.

Youth Deer Day, for hunters ages 16 and under, is scheduled for Saturday, followed by Maine residents only day on Oct. 29 and the beginning of the monthlong firearms season on Oct. 31.

State data show that 140 deer were harvested in Fairfield last year. It is located in Wildlife Management District 16, where 6,025 antlerless deer permits were allotted this year.

Latti said the department is prepared to make adjustments to its recommendations based on the new information it receives.

“Our hope is that with the new results we will be able to refine or fine-tune the current advisory area based upon the number of samples and the multiple sites in the advisory area where they were taken,” Latti said.

In the meantime, the department is keeping the existing advisory in place — for deer harvested within approximately five miles of the farm where the contamination was discovered — as a precautionary measure to protect hunters from eating potentially tainted deer meat and to provide guidance about where to hunt.

DFI&W is still waiting on further testing to determine the severity of "forever chemical" contamination in the deer herd there.
A map showing the area where deer have been found to have elevated levels of PFAS and aren’t safe to eat. Credit: Courtesy of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

The Fairfield advisory area begins at the Carter Memorial Bridge in Waterville where Route 137 crosses the Kennebec River, heads north up the river past Waterville and Skowhegan. It continues to the Eugene Cole Bridge in Norridgewock (routes 8 and 201A), then south from Norridgewock along Route 8 into Smithfield to the intersection of routes 8 and 137. It then goes south on Route 137 until it crosses the Kennebec River on the Carter Memorial Bridge.

Last year, five of the eight deer tested contained enough PFAS in their systems to issue a recommendation not to eat the meat more than two or three times a year. Three other deer, taken from an area two miles away with lower PFAS levels, still had enough in their systems to warrant a recommendation not to eat the meat more than once a week.

The state thus blocked out an area extending out approximately five miles, the farthest a deer might be likely to travel, and recommended meat from those animals not be consumed.

In April, the wildlife department determined that wild turkeys harvested in the Fairfield area were safe to eat. They based the decision on testing, which found the levels of forever chemicals are within the range deemed acceptable under state guidelines, and the fact the season bag limit of two bearded turkeys per person also would limit exposure.

PFAS are used in many consumer and industrial products, including firefighting foam, nonstick coating and food packaging. They move through the environment and take a long time to break down. The substances are toxic in high concentrations.

Health issues tied to PFAS ingestion include increased cholesterol levels, decreased vaccine response in children, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women and reduced infant birth weights.

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...