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Statement: Another Maine Dairy Has Record-Breaking Levels of ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Milk, as Legislature Considers Bill to Hold Polluters Accountable

Environmental Health Strategy Center
07.24.2020
Category:
News Releases

A dairy farm in central Maine was found to have record-breaking levels of a toxic PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance) in its milk, according to Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

This farm’s milk contained over twenty times the levels found in milk at Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, Maine, which made national headlines in 2019 after then record high levels of a PFAS were discovered in its milk. In the case of Stoneridge Farm, the contamination was the result of PFAS-contaminated industrial and sewage sludge spread on farmland as fertilizer starting over 30 years ago.

It has been reported that the new farm also utilized sludge, although the state has yet to release the identity of nor the full details of what has been found on the farm. Despite public outcry, the state of Maine still allows the spreading of PFAS-contaminated sewage sludge on farmland.

The news broke just days before the Maine Judiciary committee holds a public hearing Tuesday on LD 2160, which will update Maine’s statute of limitations law to give Mainers impacted by PFAS a more direct path to seek restitution for pollution of their land.

Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, said:

“Since March of 2019, health advocates have repeatedly called upon Maine to test all farms that received sludge, as well as the agricultural products from them. The news of another extraordinarily contaminated dairy farm sadly demonstrates the long overdue need for action. If state officials had acted appropriately then, the contaminated milk from this farm may not have made its way to store shelves for an additional 18 months.

We call again on the state of Maine to actually test milk at the farm level and to close the loopholes that are still allowing the spread of PFAS-contaminated sludge as fertilizer on farm fields. We cannot wait for another contaminated farm and contaminated products to be stumbled upon before making a concerted effort to locate the problems.

Moreover, under current Maine law, the cost of this pollution threatens to fall on farmers and eventually Maine taxpayers as fields are abandoned to become uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. We urge lawmakers to update the statute of limitations and pass LD 2160 to allow farmers and others who discover their land was polluted decades ago to seek restitution and justice. LD 2160 is essential to ensuring that polluters pay to clean up their mess.”

As legal experts will testify during the hearing, Maine is an outlier amongst U.S. states when it comes to statutes of limitations regarding pollution. At least 37 other states would allow cases to proceed on the basis on when the pollution was discovered, as is proposed in LD 2160, rather than when it first occurred.  Addressing this disparity was supported by a majority of Governor Janet Mills’ PFAS Task Force in its recent report.

Exposure to PFAS has been linked to kidney cancer and testicular cancer, as well as thyroid disease, compromised immune systems, and infertility. PFAS are used in a wide variety of consumer products, such as nonstick coatings on cookware and water- and grease-resistant coatings on food packaging, outerwear, and furniture. These chemicals are also used in many firefighting foams, which then contaminate soil and water.

The Judiciary hearing on LD 2160 will be held on Tuesday, July 27, at 1pm. It can be watched at www.youtube.com/mainestatelegislature (select the Judiciary “channel”).

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The Environmental Health Strategy Center works to create a world where all people are healthy and thriving, with equal access to safe food and drinking water, and products that are toxic-free and climate-friendly.