Maine Organic Farmers Sue EPA Over PFAS-Contaminated Fertilizer

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) is suing the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to regulate the use of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-contaminated sludge as fertilizer on farms in Maine, which has led to widespread contamination of soil, water, and food supplies, posing significant health and environmental risks. The lawsuit aims to compel the EPA to set national standards for PFAS regulation in sludge, highlighting the urgent need for federal action to protect farmers, public health, and the environment. This description focuses on the primary topic of the lawsuit, the main entities involved (MOFGA and EPA), the context of farm contamination in Maine, and the significant consequences and implications of the issue. It also provides objective and relevant details that will help an AI generate an accurate visual representation of the article's content, such as images of farms, sludge, and affected crops or livestock.

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Nitish Verma
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Maine Organic Farmers Sue EPA Over PFAS-Contaminated Fertilizer

Maine Organic Farmers Sue EPA Over PFAS-Contaminated Fertilizer

The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) has filed a notice of intent to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its failure to regulate the use of sludge containing toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as fertilizer on farms in Maine. The notice, submitted on May 14, 2024, alleges that the EPA has violated the Clean Water Act by not identifying and regulating toxic pollutants in biosolids every two years, as mandated by a 1987 provision.

Why this matters: The lack of regulation on PFAS-contaminated sludge has far-reaching consequences for public health, the environment, and the agricultural industry as a whole. If left unaddressed, it could lead to widespread contamination of soil, water, and food supplies, with devastating effects on ecosystems and human health.

PFAS, often referred to as "forever chemicals" due to their persistence in the environment, have been strongly linked to various problems, including liver damage, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, high cholesterol, obesity, hormone suppression, and cancer. The sludge used as fertilizer on the affected Maine farms contains at least 18 different types of PFAS, 12 of which have sufficient scientific evidence to warrant EPA regulation for public protection.

MOFGA's lawsuit aims to compel the EPA to fulfill its regulatory role and protect farmers from the burden of PFAS contamination. Sarah Alexander, MOFGA's director, emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, "If the EPA had been regulating appropriately, many of our farmers wouldn't be facing the harm they are today." She added, "This lawsuit isn't about money... This is about forcing the federal government to set a national standard so it won't happen to anybody else."

The use of PFAS-contaminated sludge as fertilizer has been a common practice in Maine and other states for decades. The EPA estimates that 60% of biosolids in the US are applied to lands. Preliminary research has shown that crops absorb PFAS from contaminated sludge, and the chemicals can also be found in livestock and even chicken eggs.

Maine has confirmed PFAS contamination on 59 farms as of January 2024, with the contamination linked to the use of sludge as fertilizer. The affected farms have faced significant consequences, including the loss of livestock, crops, and in some cases, their entire livelihoods. Maine has since banned the land application of sludge in 2022.

The EPA recently announced new national drinking water standards for PFAS but has yet to initiate the rulemaking process for regulating these chemicals in sludge. In 2021, the Biden administration announced plans to consider regulating forever chemicals in sludge after completing a human health and environmental risk assessment in 2024.

MOFGA's lawsuit against the EPA highlights the urgent need for federal regulation of PFAS in sludge used as fertilizer. With 59 Maine farms already contaminated and facing severe consequences, the case underscores the importance of protecting farmers, public health, and the environment from the harmful effects of these persistent chemicals. As the EPA continues to assess the risks associated with PFAS, the outcome of this lawsuit could have significant implications for the future of sludge use in agriculture nationwide.

Key Takeaways

  • MOFGA files notice to sue EPA over PFAS-contaminated sludge used as fertilizer in Maine.
  • PFAS "forever chemicals" linked to liver damage, cancer, and other health problems.
  • 59 Maine farms contaminated, facing loss of livestock, crops, and livelihoods.
  • EPA failed to regulate PFAS in sludge, violating Clean Water Act.
  • Lawsuit aims to compel EPA to set national standard for PFAS regulation.