Maine Governor Signs First-in-Nation Law that Bans the Spreading of PFAS-Laden Sludge
April 22, 2022
Law is the first ever to ban the spreading of sludge as fertilizer—a source of widespread toxic PFAS contamination
Health advocates nationwide applaud the move to protect farmers and farmland from toxic threats
PORTLAND, OR—On Wednesday, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed into law a bipartisan bill, LD 1911, that is the first in the nation to ban the spreading of sludge and sludge-derived compost as fertilizer. Sludge has been the source of widespread contamination from PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), known as “forever chemicals,” forcing family farms to shut down and poisoning drinking water wells of entire communities. The law bans the use of sludge as a soil amendment.
Last week, Governor Mills also signed a supplemental budget that includes $60 million dollars to set up a fund for impacted farmers. The resources include income replacement, buyback funds, medical monitoring funds (for both farmers and impacted well owners), and funding for research on cropping alternatives and an additional $9.2 million dollars to increase testing capacity and provide more staff to the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.
Health advocacy organizations from Maine and states across the country applaud this move to protect farmers, farmlands, and communities. Defend Our Health and Safer States released the following statements in response to the news.
“It is heartening to see the state taking the action necessary to make sure future farmers won’t be facing the same heartbreak and financial ruin that has been inflicted by the application of contaminated materials directly to our land,” said Sarah Woodbury, director of advocacy at Defend Our Health based in Portland, Maine. “We are proud to stand with farmers like Fred Stone, and Adam Nordell and Johanna Davis to prevent future contamination.” Defend Our Health also released a press statement.
“We applaud the state of Maine’s national leadership in adopting this precedent-setting policy,” explained Sarah Doll, national director of Safer States. “This policy will protect farmland and communities not just from PFAS but from other toxic threats that are in sludge. We anticipate that other states will follow this lead.”
BACKGROUND ON PFAS “FOREVER CHEMICALS” IN SLUDGE
Widely used as fertilizer, industrial and municipal sewage sludge, referred to as “biosolids” by industry, are the semi-solid material left over after the wastewater treatment process. This sludge can become heavily polluted with toxic chemicals, such as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), since many contaminants contained in the industrial and municipal wastewater do not break down during the treatment process. Then, when the contaminated sludge is applied to farmland it pollutes the soil and toxic chemicals can get transferred to our food. About 60% of sewage sludge produced in the US each year is applied to land.
PFAS have been used by manufacturers for their grease- and water-proofing properties, but there are hundreds of other applications. PFAS have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, hormone disruption, immune system suppression, decreased vaccine response, and reproductive problems. PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down in the environment.
DEFEND OUR HEALTH
Defend Our Health is a nonprofit public health organization working to create a world where all people are thriving, with equal access to safe food and drinking water, healthy homes, and products that are toxic-free and climate-friendly. Visit www.defendourhealth.org for more information.
Safer States is an alliance of diverse environmental health organizations and coalitions from across the nation committed to building a healthier world. By harnessing place-based power, the alliance works to safeguard people and the planet from toxic chemicals and sparks innovative solutions for a more sustainable future. www.saferstates.org
Defend Our Health
“It is heartening to see the state taking the action necessary to make sure future farmers won’t be facing the same heartbreak and financial ruin that has been inflicted by the application of contaminated materials directly to our land,” said Sarah Woodbury, director of advocacy at Defend Our Health.