Technical Director Sara Dunne explains the process used to test water for PFAs contamination Thursday at Maine Laboratories on Main Street in Norridgewock. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

NORRIDGEWOCK — The first laboratory in Maine licensed to test for PFAS recently opened and its founders intend to make testing faster and more accessible for people contending with contamination on their land.

Maine Laboratories, on Main Street in Norridgewock, opened for consumer testing this week after earlier receiving the required state accreditation to test drinking water. The lab focuses entirely on PFAS testing, allowing it to shorten the time it takes to get results for property owners, said Katie Richards, CEO of the company and one of its founders.

Richards and her husband, Dr. Chris Richards, are Maine natives and have followed the growing problem of PFAS contamination in the state. They were surprised to learn that no lab in Maine was able to test for the chemicals. With Chris Richards’ background in chemistry and Katie Richards’ experience in project management, the couple realized they were positioned to meet a growing demand.

“As we were watching from the sidelines, it was clear that PFAS contamination was going to become one of the most important environmental challenges in the state,” Katie Richards said in an email. “We also recognized there was a major gap in testing capacity.”

Technical Director Sara Dunne displays a vial that will hold a water sample to test for PFAs contamination. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

PFAS, or per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, is a group of manmade chemicals that can be difficult to test for because equipment must be sensitive enough to reliably test at low concentrations — the standard testing metric is parts per trillion. The chemicals don’t break down over time, leading them to accumulate in the environment, such as in plants, animals and people.

Most PFAS testing can take several weeks, as there are few labs nationally with the capability. The companies that can are often overwhelmed as testing demands have skyrocketed in recent years.


Richards said Maine Laboratories can offer significantly shorter turnarounds, returning results in two weeks. With current staffing and equipment, the lab can do around 4,000 tests a year, and the couple plans to increase capacity with more staff and equipment.

Part of the reason the lab can expedite testing is the automated elements to the testing process it has in place, Richards said. Its equipment can detect PFAS levels as low as two parts per trillion.

Technical Director Sara Dunne prepares water samples for testing Thursday at Maine Laboratories on Main Street in Norridgewock. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The lab’s location in Norridgewock was a strategic choice, she said, as the centralized location will allow it to serve the entire state. It’s also a short distance from the Fairfield area, which has seen extensive PFAS contamination.

Anyone can order a test on the lab’s website,, and it will mail out a test kit that includes instructions to gather a sample and return to the lab for processing.

The cost depends on the type of test. The lab offers one for drinking water, analyzing for 18 different PFAS compounds, for $285; a test for nondrinking water liquids, like wastewater or landfill leachate, which can detect 28 different PFAS compounds, costs $375; and a test for solids, like soil or animal tissue, looking for 28 different compounds, costs $425.

The lab also offers a rapid turnaround service, which has a turnaround time of five days or less, for an additional $200.

Richards said down the road the lab wants to offer a service where a field technician travels to sites and collects the samples. She said the hope is to contract with state agencies in the future to assist with their testing needs.

“Being able to support individual homeowners is an important part of our mission so we will work hard to keep that option available,” she said. “In addition we would like to help support the backlog of testing that the state agencies are experiencing.”

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