Maine wildlife officials began testing Fairfield-area turkeys for so-called forever chemicals before the state’s scheduled start of the turkey hunting season.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife began testing turkeys in February as part of an expansion of the state’s investigation into PFAS contamination in the Fairfield area, according to the spokesperson for the ministry, Mark Latti.
The birds are tested for 28 different varieties of chemicals forever – known technically as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. This is the second land animal to be tested in the Fairfield area after the state began testing deer for PFAS last October and detected forever high levels of the chemicals, leading the to warn hunters not to eat the meat of deer killed there.
The spring wild turkey hunting season begins May 2 and ends June 4. There is also a spring wild turkey hunting day for young people on April 30.
Testing of new species shows both the far-reaching effects of Maine’s PFAS contamination problem, including on the state’s outdoor traditions, and how the Fairfield area has become a contamination hotspot .
PFAS include hundreds of different types of chemicals that manufacturers have widely used for decades to make a number of everyday products, such as waterproof clothing, non-stick cookware, grease-resistant food packaging and fire fighting foam. PFAS have been associated with a number of health effects, including an elevated risk of kidney and testicular cancer and small decreases in infant birth weight.
Maine moved quickly to better understand the extent of PFAS contamination statewide. It has begun accelerating soil and groundwater testing at farms where sludge — a byproduct of sewage treatment — has been applied as fertilizer, and the state’s public drinking water systems are required to test. their sources of PFAS by the end of the year. The state also collects PFAS test results from licensed landfills to determine the concentration of chemicals in their liquid runoff.
In the Fairfield area, routine testing of milk from an area dairy farm revealed high concentrations of the chemicals, prompting a wider investigation including testing of well water which showed high levels of PFAS. According to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, high levels of PFAS have also been detected in fish from Fairfield-area waters.
Wildlife officials test turkeys’ muscle tissue — the meat — and livers because those are what hunters and their families eat most often, Latti said.
Testing of turkeys will continue later this spring as wildlife officials want to know if there are differences in PFAS concentrations in birds as they move from their wintering grounds and food sources. spring and summer ranges and food sources, Latti said.
More animals will likely be tested as the year progresses, including geese and ducks as well as other commonly hunted birds and animals, such as grouse and squirrels, he said.