Maine Farmers Seek Help with 'Forever Chemicals' Contamination
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Lawmakers in Maine are considering a bill to compensate farmers for the widespread use of state-sanctioned PFAS, or "forever chemicals" on their land. The chemicals are a byproduct of sewage processing once used as fertilizer and have caused irreversible damage to soil and water resources on at least 50 farms in the state.
Heather Spalding, deputy director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said while struggling farmers deserve help, the bill may be getting ahead of a special state fund already set up to identify the extent of the problem.
"We just really want to support this PFAS Fund Advisory Committee and let them do their work," she said. "They're working incredibly hard to figure out where the funds need to go."
While the majority of farmland is not contaminated, hundreds of farms still require further testing, Spalding said.
Maine became the first state in the nation last year to ban the land application of PFAS sludge. Governor Janet Mills set aside $60-million to help farmers recoup lost income, pay for any needed health monitoring and set up a buyout program.
The current legislation would put a specific dollar amount on Maine farmland into a statute that she's reluctant to support, Spalding added.
"The goal is not just to buy up all the land and put farmers out of business. The goal is to work with farmers and make sure they can keep producing," she said.
Spalding added a lack of federal standards related to PFAS limits in food and water does not help. The governor's PFAS committee is expected to release its report in March and Spalding said funds could start to reach farmers this summer.
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