Maine is the first in the nation to ban land application of PFAS sludge and compost
AUGUSTA — Maine is the first state in the United States to ban the use of industrial and municipal sewage sludge as fertilizer. The Legislature passed LD 1911 on April 15, and Governor Janet Mills signed it into law on April 20.
Spread as a soil amendment on Maine farmland for many years, sludge has been the source of widespread contamination with PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), known as “eternal chemicals.” The presence of PFAS has forced family farms to shut down and poisoned drinking water wells. Farms in Waldo County are among those affected.
At a press conference in February to rally support for the legislation, Adrienne Lee of New Beat Farm at Knox spoke alongside her husband, Ken Lamson, and their daughter about the impacts of PFAS on their farm and family. . Their well water tested positive for substances at a level 100 times higher than drinking water standards, Lee said.
The federal EPA set 70 parts per trillion as the upper limit for PFAS in drinking water, while in June 2021 the Maine legislature set an interim state drinking water standard of 20 nanograms. per liter for the combined sum of six different PFAS substances: PFOA, PFOS, PFHpA, PFNA, PFDA, and PFHxS, according to maine.gov.
New Beat Farm grew organic vegetables, cut flowers and pasture-raised lamb until Lee and Lamson received PFAS results on their property. Once they learned that their well was polluted with chemicals, they pulled all their produce from the market and started drinking bottled water. The state began working with the family to install a filtration system in their well.
Other Waldo County farms have since found PFAS in their soil, crops and water. Forever chemicals are also found in local milk, harvested deer, and freshwater fish.
“We cannot afford to ignore this contamination in the vain hope that it will go away. We cannot pass the mistakes of past generations on to our children to deal with,” Rep. Bill Pluecker I-Warren, the bill’s lead sponsor, said when he introduced it. “The success of LD 1911 is vital in preventing further contamination. This legislation allows us to take decisive action to help future farmers and give our children safe land capable of growing healthy food that will feed Mainers for generations to come.
While Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection began limiting some uses of contaminated sludge in 2019, significant gaps remained. Contaminated sludge was still allowed to be composted and the resulting material could be sold to farmers, landscapers and home gardeners. The new law puts an end to all use of sludge to amend the soil and mix it with compost.
LD 1911 faced opposition from Casella Waste Systems, which operates the Hawk Ridge composting facility that generated PFAS-contaminated compost for use in Maine from municipal sludge primarily out of state .
Other Bills to Address PFAS Contamination
Another PFAS bill that became law this session is LD 2019, which bolsters the state’s plan to phase out PFAS pesticides.
Also, on April 25, the Legislative Assembly passed LD 1875, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Paige Zeigler, D-Montville, which is a plan for treating PFAS effluent in public landfills. Zeigler targeted the bill specifically at the Juniper Ridge landfill in Old Town, where leachate from the state-owned facility contributes to PFAS contamination of the Penobscot River.
GL 1875 requires state-owned waste disposal facilities to treat leachate, liquid that has passed through the material and contains soluble or suspended solids, to reduce the concentration of PFAS to the extent possible. The bill requires treatment to take place before it is shipped to a wastewater treatment facility or that the leachate be sent to a facility that has the technology to reduce the concentration of PFAS.
The bill further requires the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to adopt rules to establish technology requirements, ensure implementation of those requirements within three years, and to monitor the effectiveness of the installed system.
“The impact of leachate from Juniper Ridge entering the Penobscot River is of great concern, especially since the Penobscot Nation depends on fish from the river,” Zeigler said. “We know from the Arundel Dairy Farm, Fairfield’s private wells and the do not eat advisory” on deer harvested from communities surrounding Fairfield that PFAS has a lasting impact on both the environment and on the human body.
Yet another bill this session, LD 2013, called for relief for affected farmers. In its April 28 newsletter, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners wrote, “Perhaps the most extraordinary bipartisan support for taking action against PFAS is LD 2013, which calls for $100 million in direct support for farmers affected by contamination and created a committee to ensure proper allocation. of financing. »
MOFGA welcomed Mills’ signing of the supplemental budget, “which includes $60 million in PFAS emergency relief – not all that LD 2013 requested, but still a very significant start for the fund.”
Information and support for farmers affected by PFAS, as well as links to related state government websites, can be found at MOFGA.org.
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