Read the full article by Marina Schauffler (The Maine Monitor)
“Maine farmers are resourceful and resilient, but nothing could have prepared them for this invisible and insidious disaster. ‘We are… the human collateral of PFAS-contaminated biosolids,’ observed organic farmer Nell Finnegan of Albion, casualties of a decades-long practice of spreading sludge tainted by ‘forever chemicals.’
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), thousands of unregulated chemicals widely used for stain and water resistance, end up in wastewater sludge. State and federal regulators have promoted these ‘biosolids’ as economical fertilizers, unaware until recent years that pernicious chemicals were seeping into groundwater. While still under study, PFAS exposure is already linked to numerous health problems, including higher incidence of some cancers, reproductive issues and interference with immune and hormonal systems.
‘They accumulate… little by little until we’re full of them,’ Finnegan said. ‘Full of them like my family and I are.’
Sludge spread on neighboring lands contaminated their well — throwing their family into ‘a tailspin, a torturous limbo… teetering on the edge of losing everything. Our business, our home, our career, our future, our health. Everything.’
When PFAS contamination was found in 2016 on the Arundel dairy farm of Fred and Laura Stone, it was thought to be an anomalous tragedy. The state eventually ramped up testing of former sludge-spreading sites, and this winter numerous farms received news of PFAS contamination.
The Legislature had directed state agencies to ‘look into the problem without considering the ramifications of what would be done when contamination was found,’ said Sarah Alexander, executive director of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA). There is no support structure in place for the farmers blindsided by this news.
In January, Maine state officials and nonprofit groups sprang into action.
‘The safety net is being built in real time as the state and communities learn what is needed,’ Alexander said. ‘It’s amazing that the state has been able to move as quickly as it has.'”…