Read the full article by Julia Bayly (Bangor Daily News)
“The federal government’s drastic reduction of the levels of ‘forever chemicals’ that are safe for consumption is getting a mixed reaction from farmers in Maine.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a nonbinding health advisory setting the health risks associated with two specific per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — also called PFAS chemicals. For perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), it lowered its health advisory level for lifetime exposure to 0.004 parts per trillion, and to 0.02 parts per trillion for another specific chemical, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS).
Should Maine enforce more strict PFAS standards?
The previous EPA levels, set in 2016, were 70 parts per trillion for each. Here in Maine, the current threshold for PFOS in drinking water is 20 parts per trillion, while milk is 210 parts per trillion and beef is 3.4 parts per billion.
By the EPA’s own admission, their own new levels are too minute to measure with current technology.
The federal advisory around safe levels of “forever chemicals” in the environment is good news, Maine farmers say, but it’s a long way from solving the ongoing crisis the toxins are posing to their livelihoods.
‘What the EPA did seems to be an indication that they are taking these chemicals seriously,’ said Adam Nordell, who owns Songbird Farms with Johanna Davis. ‘It is heartening that they are concerned even with low-level exposure.’
Since voluntarily halting all farming operations after discovering the chemicals on their land and in their water earlier this year, the couple has turned to advocacy work around the presence of forever chemicals in Maine.
An unknown number of acres in Maine were contaminated by forever chemicals when municipal sludge was spread on the land as an agricultural fertilizer.
At the same time, Nordell said, the state has a long way to go to solve the forever chemical issue.
‘It’s a step in the right direction,’ Nordell said. ‘This is not the end of the story [and] what we need is regulations and enforcement, not guidance.’
The EPA’s advisory are recommendations only.
‘Hopefully the state of Maine will follow in adopting its own regulations,’ Nordell said. ‘And the EPA will hopefully provide resources to help.’
Anson Biller of Full Fork Farm in China worries the EPA’s advisory could just be deflecting a larger problem, as it only specifies two of the most well-known forever chemicals.
‘The PFOS and PFAS have the most research around them and industries are moving away from them,’ Biller said. ‘[Is the EPA] just dodging the underlying issue that other [forever chemicals] are in consumer goods and everyday objects that are not healthy for ourselves or the environment?'”…