AUGUSTA — State officials have significantly reduced a vast area of central Maine that was part of an advisory warning people not to eat wildlife found there because of contamination by “forever chemicals.”

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife told people in November 2021 not to eat deer found in a 125-square-mile area extending from Skowhegan south to Waterville. In a statement released Monday to the news media, the agency said further testing of wildlife led authorities to reduce the size of the area by 80%.

And for the first time, the agency is advising the public not to eat turkey harvested from the area.

A revised advisory now warns the public not to eat deer or wild turkey found roaming 25 square miles that encompass parts of Fairfield and Skowhegan.

“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,” Commissioner Judy Camuso of the Department of the Inland Fisheries & Wildlife said.

The newly defined area still uses the Kennebec River as the eastern edge, as officials have previously said the river is a barrier to deer movements. The area is marked by Route 139 to the south, Route 104 to the west and Varney Road to the north.


The advisory area includes several farm fields that have been contaminated with PFAS through the spread of sludge, a wastewater treatment byproduct, as fertilizer.

Deer and turkey feeding in that area then drink contaminated water and eat plants grown in contaminated soil, and the animals also become contaminated. The chemicals can also be passed from doe to fawn in utero.

PFAS, or per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances, is a group of manmade chemicals created in the 1940s and used in a wide variety of consumer products. The chemicals do not break down over time and can accumulate in the environment, animals and humans, and have been linked to health effects, including testicular and kidney cancer.

The revision was made following additional testing of 60 deer and 51 wild turkey harvested in or just outside the previous advisory area, according to the state. Officials determined only animals harvested near the most highly contaminated fields had PFAS levels that warranted a consumption advisory.

The deer were collected in August and September, while the turkeys were harvested over the past 15 months. State officials have said there are significant delays in getting results for PFAS when testing animal tissue because so few labs can do the tests, and those that can are in high demand.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife had previously tested several turkeys from the Fairfield area, but those tests found relatively low levels of PFAS, not high enough to warrant an advisory at the time. Officials have said previously they plan to expand testing to other species, including ducks, geese, squirrels and hare — other small game species that hunters might consume.


David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said Monday he was pleased with the updated advisory.

“First of all, it’s a positive thing. It means the PFAS contamination is not as extensive as they thought it was,” Trahan said. “It’s never good to have an advisory. We still haven’t figured out how extensive the problem is, but initially this is good news.”

Trahan said he was not surprised to see turkeys added to the advisory, and said he suspects this will affect the same hunters impacted by the deer advisory, because most people will hunt multiple animals throughout the year. He said with PFAS present in so many forms, addressing the issue in wild animals is just part of the process.

“PFAS is pretty much everywhere,” Trahan said. “We just have to figure out a way to mitigate it in all of its forms not just wildlife.”

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife issued the advisory in consultation with the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Testing has similarly found PFAS in farm animals, such as cows and animal products, including milk and chicken eggs. Research by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, however, has found levels of PFAS contamination in livestock can diminish over time if farmers remove the source of the contamination from their land.


Last year, state officials also issued an advisory warning people to limit consumption of freshwater fish from seven bodies of water in Maine because of PFAS contamination.

Other areas of the country continue to grapple with PFAS contamination, especially in animals. New Hampshire and Wisconsin have issued “do not eat” advisories for deer livers, and Michigan advises people not eat deer in the Oscoda area or organs of deer, fish or other wild game statewide.

Many states, including Maine, have adopted limits for PFAS in drinking water, and have worked to address other elements of the contamination, such as California, where the Legislature has banned PFAS from cosmetics sold in the state.

The issue continues to grow in some states, such as Florida, where recent testing has found PFAS in oysters.

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