Read the full article by Vivien Leigh (News Center Maine)
“ARUNDEL, Maine — A toxic disaster centered on wastewater sludge, tainted with industrial compounds known as PFAS chemicals, is unfolding across Maine.
This sludge was marketed by the state government and was hauled to farms and used as free fertilizer for decades.
Over the years, the chemicals in the sludge leached into the groundwater, poisoning it and hundreds of drinking water wells.
Lawmakers in Augusta in the past several years have taken aggressive steps to address the contamination, including an outright ban on sludge spreading and the use and sale of sludge in compost and fertilizer.
State officials are scrambling to try to save farmers from financial ruin, as statewide testing is expected to reveal a much larger scale of contamination.
Fred Stone and his wife Laura met showing farm animals at county fairs as high schoolers.
The couple took over the historic Stoneridge farm in the mid-1970s, supplying several thousand gallons of milk weekly for Oakhurst Dairy.
‘We thought we could rectify and salvage the operation, I mean our farm goes way back more than 100 years,’ Fred said.
In November of 2016, high levels of forever chemicals were discovered in his cow’s milk, in his soil, and in his drinking well.
Two-and-a-half years later, Fred spoke out publicly for the first time, telling NEWSCENTER how he was forced to pull thousands of gallons of milk from the shelves.
‘We dumped the milk. After that, it went down the drain,’ Fred said.
The majority of the farm’s Brown Swiss and Holstein cows also had to be put down. Despite buying clean cows and paying for testing and filtration systems, Stoneridge farm hasn’t recovered from the financial and emotional blows.
‘We were spending hundreds of hundreds of thousands of dollars to no avail,’ Fred explained.
Industrial chemicals, known as PFAS, were in municipal wastewater sludge, including industrial waste from paper mills.
Starting in the early 1980s, Fred and hundreds of other farmers were encouraged by the state to use the sludge as fertilizer in an effort to prevent it from ending up in landfills.
‘We helped the towns out, the towns helped us out,’ Stone added.
Stone received licenses to spread sludge, issued by the Department of Environmental Protection, which states the leftover waste won’t pollute water or cause a health hazard.
PFAS chemicals don’t break down in the environment or in the human body. Exposure has been linked to serious health problems, including organ cancers, thyroid disease, and decreased immunity.
State environmental officials have publicly stated they were unaware PFAS was in the sludge. Fred and his family meanwhile have high levels of chemicals in their blood. All have health issues doctors can’t explain.”…