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March 18, 2022

Maine will get $1.6M for treatment system to address 'forever chemicals'

File photo / Tim Greenway Maine will get $1.6 million to treat so-called "forever chemicals" that threaten water supplies and farms.

Maine is poised to get $1.6 million to support the installation of a PFAS treatment system at the Anson Madison Sanitary District wastewater treatment facility, which will serve the entire state.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said she helped secure the funding in the 2022 interior appropriations bill, which President Joe Biden recently signed into law.

PFAS (short for polyfluoroalkyl substances) are a class of man-made chemicals, sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” that can accumulate in the human body over time. They are traditionally found in food packaging, nonstick pans, clothing, furniture, and firefighting foam and have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, liver damage, decreased fertility and hormone disruption.

“Unfortunately, Maine has experienced considerable PFAS contamination, which has not only threatened our water supply, but adversely affected the livelihoods of farmers,” Collins said.

Maine currently lacks the necessary infrastructure for PFAS remediation, particularly in the area of animal manure treatment and disposal. Dairy farms with PFAS contaminated milk also have contaminated manure that wastewater treatment facilities will not currently accept without first acquiring enhanced PFAS filtering technology.

Without any suitable options for disposal of contaminated manure, this raises a severe threat for uncontrolled releases when manure pits become full. The best long-term solution is off-site treatment at wastewater treatment facilities and disposal at secured landfills.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will use the funding to design and install a PFAS treatment system at the Anson Madison Sanitary District wastewater treatment facility, which would serve the entire state.

“Farmers across Maine are discovering PFAS contamination that is not only affecting their livelihoods, but also threatening our food supply. In addition to these environmental threats to Maine’s family farms, we now also know that PFAS appears in drinking water and in products across the spectrum,” Collins said.

In 2016, a dairy farmer in Arundel discovered that the milk produced on his farm contained some of the highest levels ever reported for a PFAS contaminant. In 2020, a dairy farm in Fairfield found PFAS levels in its milk were 153 times higher than the Maine standard for determining whether it was fit for sale.

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