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IATP Senior Attorney Sharon Treat delivered the following statement at a press conference on the dangers of PFAS contaminated sludge in Maine and LD 1911 on February 23, 2022. 

Good morning. I am Sharon Treat, and I am senior attorney at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. IATP is a national organization working closely with farmers to promote sustainable and just agriculture  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.

There is a lot of misinformation being circulated about this legislation. One claim is that LD 1911 will cause farmers to be sued by customers and others. This is false. LD 1911 does not impose new legal liability.

If anything, passing this bill will make the rules more clear-cut and reduce potential legal issues. 

As amended by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee, it simply bans all land application of wastewater sludge and sludge-derived compost, removing any ambiguity about whether a particular batch of waste has too much PFAS to be land-applied. It will not affect the practice of manure-spreading. It will not affect food and other composting that has nothing to do with wastewater sludge. The ban is not retroactive, so it will have no effect on past practices; but it will help protect landowners, including farmers, going forward.

Yes, if someone decided to ignore the ban and just spread this waste anyway, of course they would be violating the law. But that is no different than now; rules must be followed.

Nothing can change the fact that past practices have poisoned prime farmland and drinking water across the state with toxic “forever chemicals.” Now that we know what we are dealing with, it would be morally wrong and from a legal standpoint, foolish not to act on that knowledge. We know that even tiny amounts of PFAS can harm human health. We know PFAS travel great distances in groundwater, far from the location where first applied. We know PFAS levels increase as they bioaccumulate and move up the food chain. We know that at least eight Maine farms have been contaminated; 20-30 others yet to be tested are in “Tier 1” with a high likelihood of PFAS contamination. Knowing all this we must act now and pass LD 1911.

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