Members of a legislative committee voted Friday to support giving landowners and municipalities more time to file lawsuits against parties responsible for contamination with so-called “forever chemicals.”

There are growing concerns nationwide about pollution from the family of industrial chemicals known as PFAS that have been widely used in manufacturing of many consumer products as well as in some firefighting foams. Some types of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, low birth weight, high cholesterol and other health effects.

On Friday, members of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee voted to support a bill, L.D. 2160, that would give landowners six years to file civil lawsuits after the discovery of PFAS contamination. Bill supporters argue that current law allowing lawsuits within six years of the actual contamination or “injury” is inadequate when dealing with chemicals that can linger undetected in the environment for decades.

The bill would be considered by the full Legislature if and when lawmakers return for a special session, which has yet to be scheduled.

Last week, officials with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry announced that milk from a Fairfield dairy farm had tested 60 to 153 times higher than the state’s standard for a specific type of PFAS.

That farm is no longer selling milk or beef and an investigation is underway into the cause of that pollution is underway. But an Arundel dairy farmer whose groundwater was also contaminated with PFAS pollution blames treated sludge or paper mill ash that was spread on his fields as fertilizer.

“These forever chemicals never break down, so pollution done long ago will not surface until years later,” Patrick MacRoy, deputy director of the Maine-based Environmental Health Strategy Center, said in a statement. “This chemical crisis is growing, and the number of impacted Mainers will grow along with it, as we have already seen with last week’s devastating news of another Maine dairy farm with sky-high levels of these industrial chemicals in its milk.”

The bill is consistent with recommendations from a PFAS Task Force that issued a report to Gov. Janet Mills and the Legislature earlier this year.

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