Senator Brenner, Representative Tucker, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, my name is Sarah Nichols, and I am the Sustainable Maine Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 1911, and we urge the Committee to continue its good work to protect Maine’s people and environment from the dangers of toxic and persistent chemicals by voting ought-to-pass on this bill.
We applaud the work of this Committee in making significant strides to limit exposure to PFAS chemicals in Maine. This bill would strengthen those measures by closing two loopholes in Maine law. Sludge and compost that is contaminated with any amount of PFAS chemicals should not be applied to farmland. But, unfortunately, it already has been. While the compost being tested may be under the acceptable PFAS limit, the soil it’s being applied to may not be—and it could lead to growing food in soils that are above the threshold for PFAS contamination. Any soil that is clean should not be mixed with PFAS-contaminated compost because it will only exacerbate the problem and contaminate more Maine farmlands.
We support this legislation even though it would likely lead to an increase in landfilling of sludge. No one wants to be the ones stuck with PFAS-contaminated materials, but this proverbial toxic hot potato will likely end up in one of Maine’s solid waste landfills. While this is not ideal either, it’s a better management solution than spreading it on Maine farmlands. However, we also believe that Maine should significantly increase testing and treatment of landfill leachate to prevent PFAS from being discharged back into the environment after contamination. Otherwise, PFAS-contaminated compost from throughout the state will be creating a new, concentrated problem for communities down-river from the wastewater treatment plants.
We recognize that this Committee is grappling with issues of landfill capacity and safe stabilization of sludges, and that this bill may amplify those concerns—but it shouldn’t. It’s estimated that this legislation has the potential to increase sludge disposal at Juniper Ridge Landfill (JRL) by a relatively small amount. For instance, about 18,455 tons of sludge was either composted or land applied in 2020. Even in the unlikely event that all of that was instead landfilled at JRL, it would have raised the total sludge going to the landfill by about two percent.
Reviewing commonly used sludge stabilization methods, and the flow of truly Maine-generated materials entering the landfill, we feel confident that JRL can handle this increase in sludge without needing waste from out of state as a stabilization material. The most sustainable way to address sludge stabilization is through dewatering and high-heat sludge drying. Other options also are available. You may reference an appendix to my testimony that includes a list of materials commonly used to stabilize sludges, a table showing the types of materials that enter JRL from in-state and out-of-state on a regular basis, and DEP’s detailed summary table of the 2020 JRL annual report.
While we support passage of this bill, we believe the ideal scenario would be for the State to hold the manufacturers of PFAS, and the companies who opt to use it in their products, accountable for the environmental and health impacts of this toxic group of forever chemicals. Maine and its taxpayers should not be responsible for cleaning up the mess made by these corporations, or otherwise risk being poisoned, and we don’t believe that’s a fair or effective way to deal with this pressing issue into the future.
We urge the Committee to pursue avenues to not only completely phase out the sale in Maine of products containing long-chain PFAS chemicals—and their problematic short-chain replacements, but also create a producer responsibility program where the manufacturers of these chemicals internalize the costs of remediation, landfill disposal, and leachate treatment instead of leaving it on the backs of Maine people. Maine law assigns such end-of-life costs for nine other types of problematic waste in our state, and we should do it with PFAS-contaminated wastes, including sludge, as well. NRCM has been a leader in advocating for these types of programs, and we would welcome the opportunity to pursue this option with the Committee.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this important piece of legislation. We believe an ought-to pass vote could help protect Maine’s farmlands and the health of Maine people. Please join us in supporting LD 1911. I would be happy to answer any questions.
 PFAS is a general term used to describe per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are a group of chemicals used to make fluoropolymer coatings and products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water. Many PFAS are a concern because they do not break down in the environment, contaminate soil and drinking water sources, and bioaccumulate in humans, fish and wildlife. PFAS exposure has been proven to affect growth and development, reproduction, thyroid function, the immune system, and liver injury.
 Data provided by the Department of Environmental Protection: 21,777cu. yards of sludge going to compost in 2020 equals 18,455 tons
 Total municipal sludge going to Juniper Ridge Landfill was 64,443 tons, which accounts for 7.7% of the 835,263 tons of material going to the landfill in 2020.
 For example, leading toxic chemical manufacturers include 3M, Dupont, DowDupont, Solvay, and Chemours, and products containing PFAS include carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses, and water-resistant clothing and non-stick food packaging.
 Many large chemical manufacturers no longer produce long-chain PFAS chemicals, but still produce short-chain compounds under a different name, but that have many of the same toxic qualities.
 Maine has adopted nine laws that require the producers of waste to participate in the safe collection, recycling, or disposal of toxic or difficult to manage materials. These include programs for: beverage containers; mercury containing thermostats, lamps, and auto switches; electronics waste and cellphones; paint; unused drugs; and packaging. Under Maine’s product stewardship framework law, it’s a policy of our state to move more materials into this type of program.