• Firefighting foam entered the water system while crews were fighting a fire at a building
  • Customers shouldn't drink tap water nor use it other purposes like preparing food and brushing teeth
  • The order will be lifted once testing reveals there is no more contamination

The Kennebec Water District in Maine has issued a "system-wide" do not drink order after firefighting foam got into the water distribution system.

The firefighting foam entered the water distribution system Monday morning "at the location of a structure fire," the water utility company announced. Customers were urged not to drink the water or use it for other purposes such as preparing food, brushing teeth or making ice cubes.

"While fighting a fire at Elm Towers on Elm Street in Waterville, the Waterville Fire Department injected firefighting foam into a standpipe that serves the upper floors of the building to help fight the fire," the company noted. "Some of the foam entered the KWD distribution system after back feeding through the building's fire service."

Some customers reportedly observed "significant foam" in their sinks and cups. The company has collected water samples from areas where the foam was observed. It issued the system-wide warning "out of an abundance of caution" though the real impacted area "is likely much less."

Firefighting foam is biodegradable and it does not contain PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) — chemicals otherwise known as "forever chemicals." However, it is still "not safe for human consumption."

No one should drink the water even if they have a filter, though it can be used for bathing or cleaning.

"Unless you are currently noticing foam from your tap water, you can safely use your tap water to wash your dishes," the Kennebec Water District explained.

It has started flushing fire hydrants in the system and is monitoring the situation. In an update, the company said it had already arranged for testing Tuesday, with the samples expected to be released by the same day. The "do not drink" order will be lifted once the results reveal there is no more contamination.

Update: We have arranged for a laboratory in Southern Maine to analyze water samples Tuesday (5/23/23) and sample results are anticipated by the end of the same day. If the results are free from...

"If you experience unusual foaming in your water run your cold water for 15-20 minutes from a bathtub or outside spigot. If foaming persists, please contact us at 207-872-2763," the company noted. "If you are feeling ill, you should contact your health care provider or contact the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222."

Tap water comes out of a faucet in New York, June 14, 2009.
Tap water comes out of a faucet in New York, June 14, 2009. Reuters / ERIC THAYER