Letter to the editor

Home gardeners, be alert to presence of PFAS

Sun, 04/10/2022 - 9:15pm

As gardening season gets underway, I hope that home gardeners will be alert to the possible presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in fertilizer, topsoil, and compost products that are made from sewage waste and sold in bags currently on some store shelves. 

Tests of dozens of products for home use, conducted by the Sierra Club and Ecology Center, identified PFAS in every product, and at levels that exceed a screening standard set for land application in our state.  (Check the Sierra Club website to see their data.)
PFAS has been in the news lately as we find dangerous levels of these "forever chemicals" in Maine farm soils, drinking water, venison, and now freshwater fish. Given their harmful health effects and persistence, many of us in government have been focused on getting them out of our environment, and helping those farmers whose soils and drinking water have been affected.  
We also need to stop the sale of products, such as composts and fertilizers made from sewage waste, that contribute to the growing PFAS problem. 

This week, the Maine Legislature continues debate on a number of PFAS related bills, including LD 1911, which would put an end to the spreading of sludge, the most PFAS-laden form of sewage waste. If passed and enacted, the measure will also ban the sale of composts, topsoils and fertilizers made using biosolids.
Until that time, it stands to reason that we do not want to consciously continue to spread PFAS contaminants on any additional Maine land, including the backyard, school, and community vegetable gardens in which many of us spend our spring days. 

As you select products to amend the soil, be sure your choices are safe by carefully checking labels -- especially the "Guaranteed Analysis" section of the label. 

Don't be taken in by marketing terms and unwittingly bring PFAS contaminants home. "Biosolids," "residuals,” or “municipal waste" are all words for sewage waste, often touted as "natural," "organic," or “eco.” 
Gardening season is underway. Reach out with any questions as we work together to keep our precious Maine soils as PFAS-free as possible. 
State Rep. Vicki Doudera lives in Camden and represents District 94, Camden, Islesboro and Rockport, in the Maine Legislature