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Honoring Fred Stone for Grassroots Leadership

09.27.2019

Fred Stone is the third generation of the Stone family to own and operate Stoneridge Farm, a dairy farm in Arundel, Maine.

Until recently, the daily rhythm of raising, feeding, and milking cows defined Fred’s life. And then, one fateful day in November of 2016, Fred received life-altering bad news.

On that day, Fred received a letter from the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells Water District. He learned the water district had tested well water from his property a few months earlier, during the summer, and found it contained very high levels of toxic chemicals known as PFOS and PFOA. PFOS and PFOA are part of a class of industrial chemicals known as PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that are linked to certain cancers, liver and kidney dysfunction, and harm to brain development.

Fred knew their cows drank that water, and ate the feed they grew in their fields, and so he immediately took it upon himself to notify the Maine Department of Agriculture and Oakhurst Dairy, who was buying their milk.

Oakhurst tested the Stones’ milk, and found high levels of PFOA and PFOS. They said they would have to stop buying it until the milk tested safe.

Then the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) started investigating the property. They found that the areas with the highest levels of contamination were where the Stones had spread sewage sludge—municipal and industrial waste promoted by the state of Maine as farm fertilizer—for decades.

Spreading sludge from sewage and industrial waste was and is a common practice in Maine, as it is in all 50 U.S. states. It has been applied to thousands of acres of Maine farms. In Maine, as in many states, this practice goes back all the way to the 1980s.

What all that sludge spreading resulted in is a dairy farm so contaminated that the Stones still cannot sell their milk—despite going to the expense of installing a $20,000 water filtration system and importing the cows’ feed from out of state. Additionally, when the Stones had their own blood tested for PFAS, they learned their body burden was twenty times that of an average person.

With the farm sinking financially, Fred is doing all he can to fight not only for his cows, but for his fellow farmers in Maine and across the country. By speaking out about his story, Fred has already brought about tremendous positive change for the health of children and families in Maine, and even across the country.

At our Celebration, learn about actions taken—and not taken—and how we are continuing to work with Fred and other advocates as we lead this fight in Maine and across the nation.

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The Grassroots Leadership Award is given to a leader or group whose exceptional and often courageous grassroots leadership has empowered community members to create positive change for environmental health. Grassroots leaders are the backbone of our movement.