Hunters in and around Fairfield should be able to consume wild game with fewer concerns this year after testing of animals in the area revealed that high PFAS levels were only present in a concentrated area.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in conjunction with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, on Monday issued a revised PFAS wildlife consumption advisory for the Fairfield area that reduces the size of the original advisory area by 80 percent.
The state said only deer and turkey living in close proximity to the most highly contaminated farm fields have ingested the chemicals and have PFAS in their meat and organs. The state is issuing a “do not eat” advisory for deer and turkey harvested within a 25-square-mile area that encompasses parts of Fairfield and Skowhegan.
It contains multiple farm fields that have been contaminated by so-called forever chemicals through the spreading of municipal and industrial sludge for fertilizer that contained PFAS.
“We are fortunate that we are able to significantly reduce the size of this advisory area and provide some reassurances to those who hunt in the greater Fairfield area,” said DIF&W Commissioner Judy Camuso. “This could not have been done without the support of farmers and landowners in the Fairfield area, and a dedicated staff. We all are very grateful.”
The initial “do not eat” advisory area identified in November 2021 covered 125 square miles.
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, have been used for decades in numerous household and consumer products, including nonstick cookware, carpet, clothing waterproofers, and food packaging products such as pizza boxes and microwave popcorn bags.
PFAS are slow to break down and persist in the environment where they are found in soil, water, plants and animals. Over time, exposure to these chemicals have been known to increase the risk of some types of cancer, decrease infant and fetal growth, increase cholesterol levels and impair the immune system.
In April 2022, DIF&W determined that the PFAS levels in turkeys tested from some areas of Fairfield were within the range deemed acceptable under state guidelines. It chose not to issue a consumption advisory, citing the limited number of turkeys harvested there in the spring and the small amount of meat that might be consumed by people.
That was a precursor to more extensive testing. Last year DIF&W, working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, harvested 60 deer and 51 wild turkeys. The animals came from an area extending more than 5 miles from the previously identified locations of PFAS contamination.
The deer were collected last August and September, and the turkeys were collected over the past 15 months.
The most recent testing showed that only wildlife harvested near the most highly contaminated fields had PFAS levels that warranted a consumption advisory. Those results were delayed for several months because of high workloads at the PFAS testing facilities.
The state has invested more than $100 million over the past three years to address PFAS contamination, including the testing of fish and wildlife. It also has developed drinking water standards, provided money to help farmers, supplied safe drinking water, established wastewater sludge testing requirements and prohibited the spreading of contaminated sludge.
DIF&W said it will continue to test deer, fish and other wildlife in the area and beyond while attempting to determine the extent of PFAS in wildlife.
New Hampshire, Michigan and Wisconsin also have issued consumption advisories concerning PFAS and deer. New Hampshire and Wisconsin’s advisories are for non-consumption of the liver, and does not include meat.