The Maine State Chamber of Commerce sent out an action alert Oct. 11, calling for businesses to request that Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection offer a blanket reprieve from the PFAS reporting requirements under L.D. 1503, An Act To Stop Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution.

Songbird Farm in Unity, co-owned by Adam Nordell, was the first apparent recorded case in Maine of a produce farm being tainted by forever chemicals, also known as PFAS. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel, File

That law is designed to limit sources of toxic PFAS chemicals in products sold in Maine. Timely PFAS source reduction under this legislation will reduce impacts on Maine’s already heavily burdened waste stream and avoid future, irreparable contamination of our farmland, rivers, drinking water and fish and wildlife resources and protect the health of all Mainers by reducing our exposure to these chemicals. The Chamber’s letter states that asking manufactures disclose whether their products contain the toxic “forever chemicals” within the allotted timeline would cause a “massive impact.”  

I am a PFAS-impacted farmer. When I hear the phrase “massive impact,” I think about farmland that cannot be safely farmed and about losing my business to industrial chemical contamination.

I think about members of the Penobscot Nation unable to safely use the traditional foods they have harvested since time immemorial. I think about our hunters throwing their precious venison into the landfill and our anglers abandoning their favorite fishing spots. I think about public school water supplies contaminated and the hundreds of drinking water wells across the state that have been poisoned by these chemicals. I think about the families that have relied on those wells for years and slowly built up a toxic body burden that will take the better part of a lifetime to flush out. May we all live long enough to be PFAS-free.  

Additionally, I think about the potential medical costs of the diseases that the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently acknowledged as linked with PFAS exposure at levels well below those experienced by many impacted well users in Maine: Kidney cancer. Liver disease. Ulcerative colitis. Thyroid disorders. Breast cancer. Testicular cancer. Those are massive impacts. 

In the past several years we have identified sludge (biosolids) as the primary vehicle for Maine’s farmland contamination. In response to this discovery, Maine’s wastewater treatment districts are shouldering significantly increased disposal costs and working through mounting logistical challenges in order not to spread the PFAS problem further. We need to support them by working to clean up our wastewater stream, now.  


It is offensive to the people who are living the PFAS crisis to hear the Chamber of Commerce complain about out-of-state manufacturers being asked to do some timely research into the toxicity of their products and share that information with the people of Maine. Maine’s farmers, water treatment districts, tribes, well users, hunters, anglers and the medical community are stepping up and taking responsibility for a problem we didn’t create and can’t fully control. Surely the companies who are profiting off the sale of PFAS-laden products can afford to help, too. 

The Chamber’s letter suggests that they may have reached a tacit agreement with Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection, offering signatories to their request a blanket reprieve from reporting. Given the DEP’s troubled legacy of licensing the sludge that contaminated so many locations across our state, I would think they would want to act promptly to prioritize environmental health over the types of disingenuous concerns raised by the Chamber.   

I’m not surprised that the Chamber of Commerce is trying to shield out-of-state corporations from Maine’s regulatory process. But it saddens me that the DEP would consider this request when so many Maine communities and businesses are severely impacted by this problem.   

Together with my farmer peers, the environmental nonprofit community, the wastewater treatment districts and tribal representatives, I ask the DEP to reject this request. Eighteen months was plenty of time to do the right thing. 

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