PFAS in Maine Cases Clarified
Provided by Greg Kester, California Association of Sanitation Agencies
Please see at the link below, and HERE, information on PFAS contamination cases in Maine, both of which we have been tracking and they deserve clarification. There are two dairy farms (Stone farm and the Saunders/Hook Farm) in Maine which have had milk contaminated with PFAS and both have apparently received the land application of biosolids as well as paper mill sludge. The Stone farm was the first to come to our attention and it led to a statewide moratorium on the land application of biosolids. This is despite the fact that the farm received both municipal biosolids and paper mill sludge (inaccurately termed “biosolids” here and throughout both cases) and evidence has shown that only the fields which received paper mill sludge had contaminated levels of PFAS and was thus the cause of the elevated levels in the milk. The fields receiving biosolids were at low levels similar to other fields receiving biosolids. The municipal biosolids in this case were blamed by the attorney representing the farmer but who later was removed from the case because of the obvious conflict from also representing the paper mill who applied sludge at the farm (and never citing them as potential parties), and the case was withdrawn. Media outlets covering the case have continued to blame the municipal biosolids despite being informed of the conflicting evidence.
The second case impacts the Saunders/Hook farm and a recent court filing is attached. In this case initial investigation indicates that this farm also received direct land application of paper mill sludge (again inaccurately called biosolids) with high levels of PFAS and also biosolids from their local wastewater treatment plant. The POTW unknowingly received PFAS from one or more paper mills and thus land applied high concentrations of PFAS in their biosolids. The lawsuit brought in this case targets multiple paper mills. The POTW is not named in this case and is not a target of the suit. The litigation is made possible by a new Maine law which clarified a suit can be brought for up to 6 years after discovering “harm” and not from the action occurring.
It is really important to clarify that municipal biosolids played a minimal role in the contamination at the Stone Farm and was merely a receiver and inadvertently impacted the Saunders/Hook farm. Also these applications occurred in the 1980’s and 1990’s before PFAS were a known concern in the municipal wastewater treatment world or to the public at large. The health concerns were known to the paper mills however.
These cases have become rather notorious and are misunderstood so I wanted to provide some clarity and facts for the discussion. Maine has adopted the most conservative soil concentration limits for municipal biosolids in the world for PFOS and PFOA which has dramatically limited land application of biosolids in the state. The inability to recycle biosolids is reality even though in the first case biosolids were not the problem and in the second they were inadvertently so. In both cases paper mills were likely responsible for the high levels of PFAS because of their heavy use of the chemicals. If you have questions or would like any further clarification contact Greg Kester.