To read the full testimony presented by IATP Senior Attorney Sharon Treat on March 4, 2022, please download a PDF of the testimony.
Chairs Senator Breen and Representative Pierce and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Services; and Chairs Senator Dill and Representative O’Brien and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. My name is Sharon Treat and I live in Hallowell. I am Senior Attorney for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), on whose behalf I am testifying today in support of the provisions of LD 1995 funding the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to address PFAS contamination.
IATP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota with offices in Hallowell, Maine and other locations. IATP works closely with farmers and seeks to promote local, sustainable and environmentally beneficial agriculture and trade policies. We have been following PFAS issues across the country and especially in Maine, where we have taken a strong interest in how PFAS contamination has affected farmers and agriculture.
THE SCOPE OF MAINE’S PFAS PROBLEM.
The problem of PFAS contamination in Maine cannot be overstated; it is not hyperbole to call it a crisis. Nothing can change the fact that past practices have poisoned prime farmland and drinking water across the state with toxic “forever chemicals.” Hundreds of residential wells have been found with high levels of PFAS. At least nine Maine farms have been tested and found to have high levels of contamination. Another 20-30 farms are likely to be found contaminated when soil testing resumes after the ground thaws, based DEP’s best estimates and their location within “Tier 1” of its investigation of wastewater sludge-spreading across the state. Farmers have had their livelihoods destroyed or significantly impacted, their farm irreparably contaminated. PFAS are bio accumulative as they move up the food chain and essentially last forever in soils. For example, soil contamination at a Unity farm was caused by biosolids spread 24 years before the farm was purchased by the current owners; not an atypical situation.
Farmers, their families and their neighbors have been exposed to toxic PFAS in their water and food. Households have been watering their gardens with PFAS-contaminated water in the Fairfield area for decades. Meanwhile, even without added contamination from water, landscapers and gardeners apply soil amendments year after year to the same soils. Contaminated commercial fertilizer marketed to home gardeners is of concern both in Maine and nationally. A recent report found PFAS in each of nine fertilizer products tested and marketed as “eco” or “natural,” eight of which exceeded Maine’s current screening guidelines. Water and soil testing is just starting for the rest of the state, but given the large number of past sludge-spreading sites, and the great distances highly mobile PFAS have traveled through ground and surface waters, we will likely see similar scenarios playing out across Maine.
To continue reading, download a PDF.