Biosolids spread on a farm field
Used under creative commons license from 44668209@N05

May 18th at 12:00pm CDT - May 18th at 1:45pm CDT

Lessons from Maine: Food, Farms and Forever Chemicals — Understanding and Addressing the Harmful Legacy and Ongoing Challenge of PFAS and Agriculture

Join us for a free webinar on May 18 at 1-2:45 p.m. EDT/12 p.m. CDT/10 a.m. PDT.

Register for the webinar today. 

Webinar Description 

“If you look for it, you will find it.” That’s the lesson from Maine, where environmental protection and agriculture agencies are engaged in an extensive, and unprecedented, statewide investigation of farmland and drinking water to look for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination. For over 30 years, municipal sewage sludge waste has been applied to cropland in every state. Called “biosolids” and exempted from most regulation, these wastes, which often include industrial discharges, have been disposed of cheaply by being passed off as fertilizer. Unfortunately, while rich in nutrients, sludge and compost made from sludge is laden with PFAS, a class of man-made chemicals that is ubiquitous in consumer products and food packaging and associated with several cancers and serious health conditions. PFAS are also in pesticides and leach from containers storing agricultural inputs.

PFAS are known as “forever chemicals” because they last for generations in soils, bioaccumulate as they move up the food chain and are virtually impossible to destroy. In fact, high levels of water and food contamination have been linked to sludge that was applied 30 years ago. PFAS from sludge spreading has contaminated drinking water, farm produce and animal feed, milk and livestock, and rendered farm products unsafe and unsaleable. Pursuant to a 2021 law, Maine is now systematically investigating PFAS levels at all 700 locations where sludge and septic waste may have been spread. To date, a dozen Maine farms have been found contaminated. Based on Maine’s experience, it is highly likely that PFAS contamination will be found on farms in every state where wastewater sludge has been spread; most states simply haven’t been looking for it.

In Maine, a coalition of farmers and farm groups, public health advocates and state legislators worked together to enact groundbreaking legislation to address the PFAS crisis. This webinar will explore lessons learned from Maine farmers’ experience with PFAS from the advocates and legislators leading the fight to protect farmers’ health, livelihoods and the food they grow from forever chemicals. Just-enacted legislation will ban land application of wastewater sludge and compost derived from sludge, start regulating PFAS in pesticides and adjuvants, and establish a $60 million fund to provide farmers with income replacement, health monitoring, and if necessary, relocation of irreparably harmed farms. These measures follow 2021 laws phasing out PFAS in consumer products by 2030, setting tougher drinking water standards, and clarifying public and private rights to sue for damages and remediation.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Maine State Representative Bill Pluecker (I-Warren), farmer and member, Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry
  • Ellen Griswold, Policy & Research Director, Maine Farmland Trust
  • Sarah Alexander, Executive Director, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
  • Sarah Woodbury, Director of Advocacy, Defend Our Health  

**Additional legislators invited but not yet confirmed**

Moderator

Sharon Anglin Treat, Senior Attorney, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy

See moderator and speakers' bios below. 


Sharon Anglin Treat, Senior Attorney, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy

Sharon Anglin Treat is an attorney and advocate. Recent policy work has focused on international trade agreements and their intersection with environmental, food and public health policy, and the impact of PFAS on food and agriculture. Before joining IATP in 2017, Sharon served 11 terms in the Maine Legislature from 1990-2014 in both the Senate and House, holding numerous leadership positions including Senate Majority Leader and chair of Committees on Judiciary; Environment and Natural Resources; and Health and Human Services. She has practiced law with environmental organizations, in state government and in private practice. From 2000-2004 she was coordinator of the Environmental Studies Program at Colby College, and she has taught environmental law at Maine Law School and several colleges. Sharon has an A.B. degree from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs and graduated with honors from Georgetown University Law Center. 

Representative Bill Pluecker, Maine Legislature 

Rep. Pluecker is serving his second term in the Maine House of Representatives. He serves on the Agriculture, Conservation, & Forestry Committee and the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee. He is a vegetable farmer and teaches farm apprentices everything from growing crops, marketing your business online, and how to operate a small business successfully. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College. Together with his wife Reba Richardson, Rep. Pluecker operates Hatchet Cove Farm in Warren, Maine. 

Ellen Griswold, Policy & Research Director, Maine Farmland Trust 

Ellen Stern Griswold oversees municipal, state, and federal-level policy work for Maine Farmland Trust. She previously practiced federal energy regulatory law for eight years in Washington, DC, before pursuing a new career in agriculture and food policy. She obtained her LL.M. in Food and Agriculture Law from Vermont Law School, her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, and her BA in Public Policy from Brown University.  

Sarah Alexander, Executive Director, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association 

Sarah Alexander began working as MOFGA’s executive director in 2018. She has over 15 years of experience advocating for sustainable, local and fair food systems. A native of rural Ohio, she attended Northwestern University, where she became interested in fixing food systems, protecting the environment, and fighting for the rights of Indigenous people. It was there that she began working with the White Earth Land Recovery project, first leading a trip of students to work in the Maple Sugar Bush during spring break. Sarah spent three years at the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota working with the White Earth Land Recovery Project, helping to restore traditional food systems and stopping the genetic engineering of wild rice. Before moving to Maine in 2015, she worked for nearly ten years to protect organic standards and strengthen consumer labeling, including for genetically engineered food, at Food and Water Watch in Washington, D.C. 

Sarah Woodbury, Director of Advocacy, Defend Our Health 

Sarah Woodbury works closely with legislators, coalition partners, and supporters to advance Defend's mission of fighting for​ ​safe products, food and drinking water, and sustainable, green jobs. She has over 10 years of experience in advocacy and communications. Prior to joining Defend Our Health, Sarah spent eight years with the Anti-Defamation League as part of their Government Relations, Advocacy and Community Engagement team and she also worked at Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) as part of the media team, helping to advance PPFA’s mission of care. Sarah has an M.A. in Applied Politics from American University and a B.S. in Political Science from Portland State University. She also holds a certificate from American University’s Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute as well as their Women and Public Policy Institute.  


Register for the webinar.


 

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