Maine predicts a steep price to fight forever chemicals


Tackling the forever chemical problem in Maine could cost up to $20 million a year, state officials say.

That amount would pay for soil and water testing, and bottled water and filtration systems at Maine farms, factories and landfills where forever chemicals have tainted the well water, according to Maine Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Melanie Loyzim.

And that preliminary estimate is probably too low, Loyzim warned state lawmakers Monday. It doesn’t include compensation for property owners who suffer a drop in property values or farmers whose fields have been rendered unsafe for growing crops or raising livestock.

“It’s like a nightmare you can’t wake up from,” Loyzim told the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “People’s homes and livelihoods have been destroyed and the scale of the tragedy keeps growing with every sample we take.”

Maine has just begun its investigation into the more than 700 locations across the state where sludge, septic tank sewage and industrial waste was applied to farm fields as fertilizer. The investigation of these sites, and nearby wells, will take years, Loyzim said.

The problem is hitting Maine farmers hard. A dairy farmer surrendered a herd of milking cows to the state for euthanasia and an organic farm in Unity just pulled its vegetables from market shelves after testing revealed unsafe levels of PFAS in their products, Loyzim said.

“We can quickly provide bottled water and treatment systems installed in the homes of people with contaminated wells,” Loyzim said during the two-hour briefing. “But that’s only a little thing for someone who has lost everything.”

Forever chemicals, or PFAS, are long-lasting chemicals with a unique ability to repel oil, grease and water. They can be found in industrial products like firefighting foam, and many common household items, like stain-resistant carpets or waterproof clothing.

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Yahoo News, 1 February 2022