The Maine State Chamber of Commerce sent an action alert Oct. 11, asking businesses to request that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection offer a blanket extension of PFAS reporting requirements under DL 1503a law to stop pollution by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
That law is designed to limit the sources of toxic PFAS chemicals in products sold in Maine. Timely source reduction of PFAS under this legislation will reduce impacts to Maine’s already heavily loaded waste stream and prevent future and irreparable contamination of our farmland, rivers, drinking water and natural resources. fish and wildlife, and will protect the health of all Maineans by reducing our exposure to these chemicals. . The House letter states that asking manufacturers to disclose whether their products contain the toxic “forever chemicals” within the allotted time frame would have a “massive impact.”.”
I am a farmer affected by PFAS. When I hear the phrase “massive impact”, I think of farmland that cannot be farmed safely and losing my business due to industrial chemical pollution.
I think of the members of the Penobscot Nation who cannot safely use the traditional foods they have grown since time immemorial. I think of our hunters throwing their prized deer into the dump and our fishermen abandoning their favorite fishing spots. I think of contaminated public school water supplies and the hundreds of drinking water wells across the state that have been poisoned by these chemicals. I think of the families who have relied on those wells for years and slowly built up a toxic body load that will take most of their lives to get rid of. May we all live long enough to be free of PFAS.
Also, I think about the potential medical costs of the illnesses that the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently recognized as linked to PFAS exposure at levels well below those experienced by many affected well users in Maine: kidney cancer. liver disease Ulcerative colitis. Thyroid disorders. breast cancer Testicular cancer. Those are massive impacts.
In recent years, we have identified sludge (biosolids) as the primary vehicle for contamination of Maine farmland. In response to this discovery, Maine’s wastewater treatment districts are bearing significantly higher disposal costs and facing increasing logistical challenges in keeping the PFAS problem from spreading further. We need to support them by working to clean up our sewage stream, now.
It is offensive to people living through the PFAS crisis to hear the Chamber of Commerce complain that out-of-state manufacturers are being asked to conduct timely toxicity research on their products and share that information with the people of Maine . Maine farmers, water treatment districts, tribes, well users, hunters, fishermen and the medical community are stepping up and taking responsibility for a problem we did not create and cannot fully control. Sure, companies that profit from the sale of PFAS-laden products can help, too.
The House letter suggests that they may have entered into a tacit agreement with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, offering signatories to their application a blanket extension of reporting. Given DEP’s troubled legacy of authorizing the sludge that has contaminated so many places in our state, I think they would want to move quickly to prioritize environmental health over the kinds of bogus concerns raised by the House.
I’m not surprised the Chamber of Commerce is trying to shield out-of-state corporations from Maine’s regulatory process. But I am saddened that DEP would consider this request when so many Maine communities and businesses are severely impacted by this issue.
Along with my fellow farmers, the nonprofit environmental community, wastewater treatment districts, and tribal representatives, I ask DEP to deny this request. Eighteen months was a long time to do the right thing.