On April 20, Governor Janet Mills signed LD 1911, An Act To Prevent the Further Contamination of the Soils and Waters of the State with So-called Forever Chemicals, into law. This statute will prohibit the land application or sale of sludge or sludge-derived compost that comes from a municipal, industrial, or commercial wastewater treatment facility. The goal behind this is to prohibit Maine lands from being contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances – known as PFAS or forever chemicals. There are several products that were exempted under LD 1911 – such as food, food waste, crops or vegetative material, the brewing of malt liquor, the fermenting of wine or hard cider, or the distilling of spirits, including but not limited to blueberries, apples, grapes, potatoes, seaweed, fish or seafood, spent grain or malt, and lime mud.
This bill had a complicated journey through the legislative process as it was changed several times, including a couple of floor amendments. In the first draft, LD 1911 sought to ban the land application of sale if it tested positive for PFAS. As it moved through the Legislature, testing requirements were dropped, and legislators decided to put a ban on sludge with a few exemptions and require it to be sent to the landfill. While the exemptions looked to address many of the bill’s flaws, there were still some concerns that went unanswered – despite the bill being signed into law. A few of those concerns are as follows:
PFAS is a tough issue to talk about because it is emotionally charged. As you have heard, there are some truly heart-breaking stories about Mainers who have been negatively impacted health-wise or financially by exposure to forever chemicals. The Maine State Chamber understands the concerns of those folks negatively impacted by their exposure to these chemicals, and we sympathize with them. The Chamber has engaged on this issue because we want to find a solution that protects Maine businesses and allows them to stay competitive in a global economy, but also addresses the exposure issue of PFAS for Maine people. It is an issue that we need to be addressed and gotten under control. As there is more of a push on the public policy level to address this topic, the Maine State Chamber will be engaged to work willingly with all parties to find a solution for everyone.
Looking to the future, our members can be assured that this topic will not be going away. In an ideal world, policymakers would get some guidance from the federal government – which probably will not happen until 2024. Right now, different states have different policies, and some states still have no policy for testing requirements. We still need to learn the true scope of health impacts. An issue of this magnitude can be very hard to resolve on a state-by-state basis, and Maine will need to make sure we do not put ourselves in a tough situation if federal laws or regulations are different.
What happened in 1970s and 1980s when these chemicals were spread is very different from how we operate today. That history is a bad one – PFAS amounts that were way to high should not have been allowed to be spread. Today, we have made some improvements, and have more to make in this area. That’s why the Maine State Chamber feels it is critical to get some federal guidance and more scientific data to help guide these decisions. For more information about broadband legislation, please contact Ben Lucas by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 111, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.