A student walks in the hallway past a water fountain at Noble School in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018. Glenburn Elementary School is looking to install a water filtration system after a small amount of PFAS was found in the school's water supply. Credit: Paul Sancya / AP

The Glenburn Elementary School is looking to install a filtration system designed to remove the small amount of PFAS, known as “forever chemicals,” found in the school’s water supply.

Two water samples collected from Glenburn Elementary School on July 6, 2022, and Aug. 22, 2022, had 9.39 and 6.74 parts PFAS per trillion parts water, respectively.

Though both of the school’s water samples fell well below the state’s 20 parts per trillion threshold of needing remediation, Superintendent Richard Modery said removing all the PFAS from the water is still the right thing to do.

Per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, chemicals have been used for decades in manufacturing for products such as food packaging, non-stick cookware and waterproof clothing. The chemicals have also been linked to numerous health problems, including certain types of cancer, a weakened immune system and pregnancy complications.

“We’re in really good shape. It just seemed prudent for us to put that filtration system in while the grant funds were available now,” Modery said. “Why not just remove it all now?”

The filtration system will be installed on the school’s well system and will use activated carbon to remove PFAS from the water.

The filtration system is expected to cost from $50,000 to $60,000, though half will be paid for by a grant the school received, Modery said. The filter will likely be installed during April vacation week, or over the summer, because the school’s water will need to be turned off during the installation.

In the meantime, the water has been safe for the school’s nearly 400 pre-kindergarten through eighth grade students to drink, Modery said.

The school is among the hundreds of apartment complexes, schools, child care facilities and public drinking water systems across the state that were required to test their drinking water for PFAS by the end of 2022 under a 2021 state law. Those results are then posted on the state’s running list of test results, though some results are not yet available.

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 because the chemicals are notoriously difficult to break down.

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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...