Read the full article by Kevin Miller (Press Herald)

“The Mills administration wants to require schools and public utilities to test drinking water for several ‘forever chemicals’ and has proposed tougher health standards for two particular compounds linked to health problems.

But environmental groups, public health advocates and families living with contaminated wells urged lawmakers on Tuesday to at least join its New England neighbors in adopting even more stringent limits on the chemicals.

‘I’d like to see Maine set an example, not follow it,’ said Lawrence Higgins, a Fairfield resident whose well is among more than two dozen in the area contaminated by PFAS believed to be in sludge that was used as farm fertilizer. ‘I like to be a leader and I feel Maine should be that way.’

Maine lawmakers will consider more than a half dozen bills this session dealing with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, after work on the issue was shelved last year amid the developing COVID-19 pandemic.

The chemicals have been used for decades as coatings in many consumer products – such as nonstick cookware, waterproof fabrics and grease-resistant food packaging – as well as in firefighting foam. But the chemical structure that makes PFAS so effective at repelling water or stains also prevents the chemicals from readily breaking down in the environment or the body, hence the nickname ‘forever chemicals.’

While the term PFAS applies to thousands of chemicals, a growing number have been linked to health problems such as cancer, low birth weight in infants, high cholesterol, immune suppression and changes to fertility and reproductivity. The chemicals have turned up at airports and former military bases in Maine and – of top concern to the agricultural community – on dairy farms in Arundel and Fairfield that used sludge from wastewater treatment plants as fertilizer.ADVERTISING

There was broad agreement Tuesday on the need for additional steps to protect the public from two types of PFAS no longer used in manufacturing in the United States but still present in the environment. The question lawmakers will have to settle is how aggressive Maine should be on an issue where states, not federal regulators, are taking the lead.

‘While there be some people who will say this measure goes too far and some who feel this measure does not go far enough, we want to underscore that this is an area of rapidly changing science,’ said Sen. Trey Stewart, R-Presque Isle, sponsor of the Mills administration bill. ‘Recognizing this challenge, we still feel confident that there are number of avenues that we can come together in agreement on.’

The proposal from Gov. Janet Mills would require schools, daycares and community water systems serving at least 15 customers to begin testing drinking water for various types of PFAS by Dec. 31, 2022. The bill, L.D. 129, also would initially set a maximum contaminant level of 20 parts per trillion – compared to a federal advisory level of 70 parts per trillion – for the specific compounds PFOA and PFOS, while the Maine Department of Health and Human Services begins rule making to arrive at a final health standard…”