Conservation Training

Lessons from Maine: Food, Farms and Forever Chemicals — Understanding and addressing the harmful legacy and ongoing challenge of PFAS and agriculture

May 18, 2022

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Location: Online

Maine is engaged in an unprecedented statewide investigation of all 700 locations where municipal sewage sludge and septic waste may have been spread on farm and other soils, looking for Perfluoroalkyl & Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination. For over 30 years, these wastes have been called “biosolids,” exempted from most regulation, and applied to cropland as cheap fertilizer in every state. Sludge and compost made from sludge is laden with PFAS, a class of man-made chemicals 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.

Known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS last for generations in soils, bioaccumulate as they move up the food chain and are virtually impossible to destroy. In Maine, PFAS in sludge has contaminated drinking water, farm produce and animal feed, milk and livestock, and rendered farm products unsafe and unsaleable. Only months into Maine’s 3-year investigation, 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.

In Maine, a coalition of farmers and farm groups, public health advocates and state legislators worked to enact groundbreaking legislation to address the PFAS crisis, including banning all land application of sludge and compost derived from sludge; regulating PFAS in pesticide ingredients and storage containers; and funding a $60 million program to provide impacted farmers with income support, ongoing health monitoring and if needed, farm relocation. 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 PFAS.