Read the full article by Catie Joyce-Bulay

“Forty-acre Songbird Farm sits atop a hill in the small rural farming community of Central Maine. Owners Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell, with their three-year-old son Caleb underfoot, grew organic vegetables and grains for themselves, local co-ops, artisan bakers and a home-baker CSA. But their livelihood and way of life came to a halt on a cold winter day last December when test samples of their water, soil and produce came back positive for per- and polyfluoralkyl, or PFAS.

There are nearly 9,000 different chemicals used today that fall under the group of chemicals called PFAS, which have been around since the 1950s and are linked to a myriad of health issues, including increased risks of cancer and compromised immune systems. In recent years, the growing presence of these chemicals in drinking water has garnered considerable attention. And now, as PFAS is discovered more in soil and food, alarm bells are ringing.

Songbird’s well water tested at 400 times the state’s threshold for PFAS. Davis and Nordell paused all sales, stopped plans for the upcoming growing season and are now debating the safety of continuing to live on their land since recent bloodwork found extremely high levels of PFAS, which can be carried in dust, present in their own bodies. These ‘forever chemicals,’ as they are often referred to since they don’t break down easily in the body, entered the farm’s soil when the fields were spread with biosolids sludge or treated wastewater used as a means of disposal and fertilizer, sometime in the early 1990s—years before Davis and Nordell bought the property and years before the previous owner had it certified organic. 

…A few months later, Misty Brook Farm, less than 20 minutes down the road, discovered PFAS in its milk, prompting it to stop selling all of its farm products, including meats, chicken, eggs, grains and vegetables, and scramble to get more testing done and find the source. Each test costs the farm $500 and owners Katia and Brendan Holmes estimated needing close to 200 tests to clear all of its products.

The Holmes did more tests, which revealed the 600-acre organic farm’s soil, animal feed and water were clean, and the original contamination came from 35 bales of hay grown on another farm that the cows ate from December 2021 to January 2022.

To detox their herd of 62 cows, they must continue to milk them daily and dump the milk. The levels of PFAS, which concentrate in cows’ milk and are expelled much faster than in human bodies, will slowly leave the cows’ bodies when they are fed clean hay and milk daily, which could take six months to a year.”…