Maine has been in the midst of a PFAS contamination crisis for years; many people have been affected and I am one of them.

At the beginning of this year, a neighbor of mine advised me to contact the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to gain some insight on the PFAS contamination in my area and to request testing.

Working with my colleague Gail Carlson, director of the Buck Lab for Climate and Environment at Colby College and with environmental health nonprofit, Defend Our Health, I learned that neighboring states like Vermont and Massachusetts included five or six types of PFAS when determining the maximum level for contamination. I also learned that until recently, there was no maximum in the state of Maine – only unenforceable guidance of 70 ppt for only two types of PFAS.

Test results showed my water was at 29.42 ppt for five types of PFAS, which is short for short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Additionally, my bloodwork showed PFAS levels higher than the national average, which is correlated to the alarming level in my drinking water.

Thanks to the recently passed L.D. 129, which sets a maximum contamination level in Maine at 20 ppt for six types of PFAS, I qualified for a filtration system for my home and I am immensely grateful for this change in legislation. This has been an issue that has caused great worry for me and for families across Maine. Over the past few years, there has been a major increase in stories of drinking water contamination by toxic PFAS across the state. Over 160 wells in Fairfield, Benton, Unity Township, Presque Isle, Trenton and Oakland have been contaminated as well as the public water supply from the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells water districts.

The Maine Legislature has tackled PFAS across the board with bills like L.D. 363, which allows farmers and landowners affected by PFAS contamination to seek justice; L.D. 1503, which makes Maine the first state in the nation to eliminate non-essential uses of toxic PFAS from everyday products, and L.D. 1600, which requires the state to test farmland for PFAS contamination where potentially toxic sewer and industrial sludge has been spread as fertilizer.

Safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. It should not be difficult for communities like mine to access the resources and assistance we need to help deal with the issue of PFAS contamination.

With the new legislation, I was eligible for a filtering system, but my neighbors, who are both in their 70s and tested slightly under 20 ppt, could not be helped. Although it’s good news that Maine has set an maximum contamination level of 20 ppt, which is much lower than the federal advisory level of 70 ppt, we still need the federal government to step up and help families like mine and my neighbors’ by setting a maximum contamination level that is fully protective of public health and by providing funding to states and communities for cleanup and remediation.

Additionally, the federal government needs to further evaluate how to address the entire class of PFAS chemicals as part of the maximum contamination level, discontinue approval of any new PFAS, label the class as a hazardous substance, and follow through with fully utilizing the funds as designated under the law.

So, while states like Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts continue to deal with PFAS, Congress needs to work with the head of the EPA, Michael Regan, and the Biden administration to find a solution and tackle PFAS “forever chemicals” once and for all on a national level.

— Special to the Press Herald


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