Read the full article by Kevin Miller (Maine Public Radio)

“Representatives of the Penobscot Nation as well as environmental and health groups are pushing for tighter regulations on what happens to liquid waste from a state-owned landfill in Old Town as they seek to protect tribal members from potential dangers of so-called ‘forever chemicals.’

The Juniper Ridge Landfill received more than 800,000 tons of waste in 2020, according to reports filed with the state. Yet the landfill, which is owned by the state but operated by Casella Waste Systems, also generated millions of gallons of polluted liquid runoff — known as leachate — that had to be hauled off site for treatment.

Dan Kusnierz, the water resources program manager for the Penobscot Indian Nation, said recent tests showed the leachate contained 20 times as much PFAS as the state allows for drinking water. Kusnierz said the current treatment system fails to remove these harmful industrial chemicals before the leachate is discharged into the Penobscot River, which is a source of both sustenance and cultural identity for tribal members.

‘Clean water is of utmost importance to protect these practices,’ Kusnierz told members of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Monday. ‘These are not recreational uses but legally protected rights.’

He was among several people who testified in support of a bill that would require treatment of Juniper Ridge’s leachate to remove PFAS, which is short for per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances. The chemicals have been widely used for decades as industrial coatings for countless products, including nonstick and water- and stain-repellant fabrics and grease-resistant food packaging. But some types of PFAS have been linked to serious health problems, including cancer, kidney malfunction and low birth weight. And PFAS hotspots are now cropping up around Maine as a legacy of the state’s industrial past and history of using sludge as fertilizer.”…