Two whitetail deer stand in a field, alert to potential threats. Credit: Courtesy of Melissa Huang

Hunters should not eat deer that have been harvested in the Fairfield area due to a high level of “forever chemicals” found in the animals, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said Tuesday.

PFAS — which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — in the Fairfield area were first discovered after routine milk sample testing, which found that a Fairfield dairy farm was exposed to high levels of the substances. Increased testing in that area showed that multiple fields, farms, wells and waters in the area have elevated levels of PFAS.

Five of the eight deer tested by DIF&W had 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 2 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.

Hunters who have already harvested a deer in the area are advised not to eat the deer and to dispose of it in their trash or landfill. DIF&W will offer hunters who harvested deer in that area an opportunity to harvest an extra deer during the 2022 season.

A map showing the area where deer have been found to have elevated levels of PFAS and are unsafe for consumption. Credit: DFI&W

The Fairfield advisory area begins at the Carter Memorial Bridge in Waterville where Route 137 crosses the Kennebec, heads north up the Kennebec River past Waterville and Skowhegan. It continues to the Eugene Cole Bridge in Norridgewock (Route 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.

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 very long time to break down. The substances are toxic in high concentrations.

Deer that feed in these areas can ingest the chemicals, which then gets stored in the animal’s system and organs, DIF&W officials said.

Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley and staying active in the Maine outdoors.