Caravel Middle School in Carmel is looking into remediation options after its drinking water was found to contain PFAS, also known as "forever chemicals." Credit: Paul Sancya / AP

Drinking water from a middle school in Carmel has PFAS levels that exceed the state’s threshold, prompting the school to stop using the water for drinking and cooking while it looks into water purification options.

A water sample collected from Caravel Middle School on Irish Road on Sept. 21 had 32.5 parts PFAS per trillion parts water, which was above the state’s threshold of 20 parts per trillion, according to a letter RSU 87 Superintendent Mark Turner sent to families on Oct. 20.

Though the school’s water is still below the federal standard of 70 parts per trillion, Turner said the school has stopped the use of its water for drinking and cooking while it looks into remediation options.

“We are currently looking into the possibility of applying for the Small Public Water System Emerging Contaminant Grant, as well as speaking with local water treatment companies about our options,” Turner said.

The school brought in water bubblers and is supplying the kitchen with “an alternative water source” until a purification system is installed, Turner said. The school’s water is still safe for cleaning and hand washing.

PFAS chemicals, which have been used for decades in manufacturing for products such as food packaging, non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing, have been linked with a number of health problems, including certain types of cancer, a weakened immune system and pregnancy complications. The testing is one of a number of steps being taken as Maine tries to come to terms with the extent of PFAS contamination that has built up over decades, as the chemicals are notoriously difficult to break down.

Caravel Middle School, like hundreds of schools, child care facilities and apartment complexes on public drinking water in Maine, was required to test its drinking water for PFAS by the end of the year under a state law that passed last year. Results from many facilities and drinking water systems are still not available, according to the state’s running list of test results, but a handful of schools have also found high levels of PFAS in their water. Three schools in Hancock County with high PFAS levels planned to install filtration systems after the discovery.

Drinking water from Carmel Elementary School on Plymouth Road, also part of RSU 87, was found to have less than 2 parts per trillion of PFAS, which does not require remediation, according to the state’s results.

Results from a water sample taken from Suzanne M. Smith Elementary School in Levant, the other school that makes up RSU 87, had not been published as of Tuesday morning.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...