From Augusta – Taking action on PFAS, the forever chemicals - Portland Press Herald

2022-08-15 05:46:19 By : Ms. hazel wang

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In Maine, we are learning about an invisible substance that threatens our land, food and water. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are water- and oil-resistant chemicals that contaminate the soil and water. Typically, these chemicals coat adhesives, cooking surfaces, electrical wire insulation, firefighting foam and furniture.

Once these items are discarded or disposed of, however, the PFAS chemicals cannot be contained and spread from dumpsites and landfills to contaminate soil and water sources. In addition, early testing shows that Maine’s papermaking industry and PFAS contamination are closely related. Of great concern, PFAS in our food and water contaminate wastewater sludge. Paper mill waste was turned into fertilizer for farmers to spread on their fields; sludge from wastewater treatment facilities is currently spread on farms to fertilize fields; and processed sludge contaminated with PFAS continues to be sold to homeowners as compost for their gardens.

Exposure to PFAS impacts human health in significant ways, harming the immune system and causing negative health outcomes for children. Our state has undertaken remedial action, installing filters on private wells to remove PFAS from household water supplies.

As Maine farmers and food producers – as well as the Maine people who buy products containing PFAS – are learning more about PFAS contamination, there are steps we must take to address this environmental and public health challenge.

As a member of the Environmental and Natural Resources Committee, I’ve been hard at work with my colleagues, especially Sen. Stacy Brenner (D-Scarborough) to take action on testing for PFAS contamination and reducing the damage it causes to our health and planet.

One bill, LD 1875, would reduce the risk of PFAS contamination from leachate, which is the sludge that seeps from dumpsites and landfills. LD 1875 would require leachate to be treated to reduce PFAS contamination at state-owned waste disposal facilities, such as Juniper Ridge Landfill, before being sent to wastewater treatment facilities. For example, at Juniper Ridge, the leachate is minimally processed and then dumped into the Penobscot River. This practice spreads PFAS contamination to the fish, wildlife and plants that are used for sustenance and connect members of the Penobscot Nation to their culture and identity.Advertisement

Another bill, LD 1911 as amended, would ban the spreading of sludge or sludge-derived compost and fertilizer on farmland. Virtually all sludge from wastewater treatment plant contains PFAS and sludge concentrates PFAS chemicals to high, unsafe levels. We know that spreading sludge on fields has contaminated animals, crops and drinking water, and are determined to stop this harmful practice until we have the technology to eliminate PFAS. Both bills will reduce the risk for further PFAS contamination, which is critical for saving Maine farms and protecting Mainers’ health.

Nevertheless, we know that these two bills alone can’t fix the whole problem. Farmers are hurting now, which is why I want to make sure that people are aware of the Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association and Maine Farmland Trust emergency PFAS relief fund.

The fund will offer grants to help some farmers pay for initial PFAS testing as well as provide short-term income replacement for those who have already been affected by PFAS contamination. On March 1, the grants became available. To learn more, please visit You can also contact Tricia Rouleau, Farm Network director, at [email protected] or 207-338-6575.

Finally, I appreciate Gov. Janet Mills including an additional $9.5 million for PFAS testing in her supplemental budget. The proposal allocates the funds for improving and expanding PFAS testing capacity in Maine. More than $3 million of these funds would support Maine farms and farmers who are discovering PFAS contamination in their livestock, produce, soil and water.

In addition to farmers, Maine hunters would benefit from $750,000 for testing wildlife. Last year, during a hunting season that tagged 38,000 deer, the state issued a Do Not Eat Advisory when deer were harvested near PFAS contamination hotspots. I look forward to learning more about this proposal, and others, when the Legislature votes on the supplemental budget later this session.

Anne Carney represents Maine Senate District 29, which consists of Cape Elizabeth, South Portland and part of Scarborough. She can be reached at 207-287-1515 or [email protected]

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