The prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) has recently been in the news, creating increasing uncertainty for many farmers in Maine. PFAS are what is known as “forever chemicals,” which means they take an extremely long time to break down in the environment. PFAS are used in a variety of products and industries and studies have shown that they may have negative effects on the human body. These forever chemicals are primarily stored in soil and water, which therefore can contaminate plants, animals, and humans. PFAS contamination in well water or in soil is likely a result of spreading municipal and industrial sludge on farms fields, once considered a best practice for enhancing agricultural productivity.
The state of Maine is on the leading edge of identifying and addressing this problem. In 2019, Governor Mills signed an Executive Order establishing a Task Force charged with studying effects of PFAS prevalence in Maine. As you may have seen, Wolfe’s Neck Center was identified as a site where municipal and/or industrial sludge may have been spread in the years 1988-1998. Upon discovering this in 2019, Wolfe’s Neck Center staff worked closely with the State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) to rigorously test our soil and water on sites throughout the property where records indicated sludge may have been spread. Furthermore, in close coordination with Maine DACF, we went one step further and had our milk tested. The results of these tests indicated PFAS/PFOS levels were not a concern in the water, soil, or dairy.
We feel it is important to share this information for multiple reasons. First, we want our community to know that food grown and produced at Wolfe’s Neck Center has been tested and deemed safe for consumption. Second, we want our neighbors to know that you should have nothing to be concerned about given your (and your wells) proximity to sites where sludge was spread more than 30 years ago. Lastly, we hope that our experience demonstrates that not all farms where sludge may have been spread are now irreparably impacted by these forever chemicals.
PFAS is a tragedy for Maine farmers and communities who have found their soil or water contaminated. This issue is causing a lot of distress, both in Maine and nationally. We will continue to monitor our property and look for ways to support the broader farm community as this situation unfolds.
Here are some resources to learn more about PFAS:
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