- Yaw Akuffo-Anoff
How Maine Is Handling PFAS Contamination Across The State.
Last year, high levels of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances referred to as PFAS were discovered in a number of Maine wells, farmlands, and food sources.
Although PFAS is used in the production of carpeting, furniture, and other household goods, the contamination in Maine has been linked primarily to decades-long use of sludge, from paper mills or wastewater treatment plants, as fertilizer.
These so-called “forever chemicals” are not easily broken down in the environment or the human body and have also been linked to several adverse health effects.
News of the chemicals’ discovery prompted the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to begin active testing of multiple former sludge and septage application sites across the state.
Lawmakers also quickly sprung to action to address the dangers that these toxic substances could pose to Maine’s ecosystem and our food sources. In 2021 Maine advanced a first-in-the-nation phaseout of most consumer products containing PFAS. That year, Representative Lori Gramlich of Old Orchard Beach also introduced LD 1600 to investigate PFAS contamination of Maine’s land and groundwater. That legislation is now state law.
Additionally, the Legislature passed a bill that will phase out pesticides containing forever chemicals. Rep. Margaret O’Neil of Saco proposed LD 2019 to ban the distribution of pesticides with intentionally added perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances by 2030.
Maine lawmakers passed another bill requiring manufacturers to report their use of this class of toxic chemicals. That legislation also requires them to be phased out by 2030.
Representative Pluecker of Warren introduced two separate bills which were ultimately passed by the Legislature. LD 363 allows Mainers to take legal action within six years after they have discovered harm or injury from PFAS, while LD 1911 prohibits the land application or distribution of sludge or sludge-derived compost unless it is tested for all ‘forever chemicals.'
More recently, Governor Mills set aside more than nine million dollars in the supplemental budget to address the PFAS contamination. The budget also sets aside $60 million for a trust fund to address the contamination. This follows her signature of LD 1875 – an emergency measure that addresses PFAS pollution from state-owned solid waste landfills.
We still have a long road ahead to understanding the full extent and ramifications of PFAS contamination, but Governor Mills and the Maine Legislature are taking the right steps on that road to understand the problem and to prevent further degradation of our food, water, and farmlands.