Farmers want bill to ban ‘forever chemical’ sludge in fields

In Augusta, Maine, farmers are advocating for a legislative ban on fertilizers and composts containing wastewater sludge that contain toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known for their persistence in the environment and significant health risks. At a press conference, farmers like Nell Finnigan voiced concerns about the enduring effects of PFAS, citing the example of his farm in Albion, which has suffered from contaminated groundwater due to PFAS-laden sludge used decades ago. This contamination has led to elevated PFAS levels in well water and disrupted farm operations.

Farmers are also requesting financial aid as Maine undertakes a statewide investigation into the safety of farmlands affected by PFAS. Although the state prohibited the use of high-PFAS sludge in 2019, sludge from wastewater treatments is still being sold for fertilizers and compost after being dried in compost facilities, a process that does not diminish PFAS levels. This loophole continues to risk exposure for farmers, landscapers, and home gardeners.

Maine is facing an estimated $20 million annual expense for testing PFAS levels and implementing necessary water filtration systems. The legislation proposed by Rep. Bill Pluecker is focused on curtailing the spread of PFAS through agricultural products.

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