AUGUSTA — The State Legislature’s policy committees unanimously voted this to advance two measures sponsored by State Representative Bill Pluecker, I-Warren, to assist farmers in addressing forever chemical pollutants, Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).
The Judiciary Committee approved Rep. Pluecker’s measure Wednesday to extend the statute of limitations to take legal action for injuries or harm resulting from PFAS contamination.
This proposal would allow those that are impacted by PFAS contamination the ability to take legal action within six years of discovery of PFAs pollution, instead of six years after the pollution originally occurred, per a news release.
“Passage of this bill is essential to ensuring that whoever created this mess will be responsible to pay to clean it up,” said Rep. Pluecker. “Farmers and other impacted communities deserve the opportunity to seek justice for the harm done to themselves and their families.”
Health science is currently considering the health effects of PFAS exposure which have so far included increased cholesterol levels, increased risk of thyroid disease, decreased fertility, increased risk of high blood pressure in women, lower infant birth weights, and increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, the release noted.
“PFAS are persistent chemicals that do not break down and can remain both in the human body and in the environment for years,” according to testimony presented at the public hearing. “They are called ‘forever chemicals’ for a reason. We are exposed to these toxic chemicals in a variety of products including food packaging, cooking supplies, clothing and furniture. PFAS have been linked to interference with normal brain development in children, diminish response to vaccines and harm the immune system, may increase the risk of some cancers, may lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant, and have been associated with liver problems and increased cholesterol levels.”
Thirty-seven other states already have similar discovery rules in place that allow cases to proceed on the basis on when the pollution was discovered, the release noted.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee voted unanimously Thursday for another one of Rep. Pluecker’s bills to direct the Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry and the University of Maine to look into alternative agricultural entrepreneurship opportunities for affected farmers.
The different opportunities to be studied may range from vegetable to livestock production. They could also study PFAS uptake rates from corn to zucchinis, and feasible income alternatives from solar generation to nursery stock.
This bill was supported by the Maine Farm Bureau Association & the Maine Department of Agriculture at the public hearing.
Two recent cases of PFAS contaminations have been found at farms in Arundel and Fairfield who spread a liquid fertilizer laden with these forever chemicals, which was only found after being discovered in the cow’s milk. The PFAS chemical has then leached into the groundwater of nearby neighbors drinking wells.
Rep. Pluecker is serving his second term in Augusta and is serving on the Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry Committee, as well as the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee.