Tip of the Iceberg - PFAS Chemicals
I wonder how many other farms are hiding this contamination? Especially now that fertilizer is going to be hard to come by.
"Songbird Farm’s 17 acres (7 hectares) hold sandy loam fields, three greenhouses and cutover woods that comprise an idyllic setting near Maine’s central coast. The small organic operation carved out a niche growing heirloom grains, tomatoes, sweet garlic, cantaloupe and other products that were sold to organic food stores or as part of a community-supported agriculture program, where people pay to receive boxes of locally grown produce. Farmers Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell bought Songbird in 2014. By 2021 the young family with their three-year-old son were hitting their stride, Nordell said.
But disaster struck in December. The couple learned the farm’s previous owner had decades earlier used PFAS-tainted sewage sludge, or “biosolids”, as fertilizer on Songbird’s fields. Testing revealed their soil, drinking water, irrigation water, crops, chickens and blood were contaminated with high levels of the toxic chemicals.
Public health advocates say Songbird is just the tip of the iceberg as Maine faces a brewing crisis stemming from the use of biosolids as fertilizer. The state has begun investigating more than 700 properties for PFAS contamination. Few results are in yet but several farmers’ independent testing revealed high PFAS levels, and statewide contamination has disrupted about 10 farms. Farmers who spoke with the Guardian say other growers have admitted to hiding PFAS contamination because they fear economic ruin.
Maine is hardly alone. It is finding more contamination because it’s doing more testing, experts say. All sludge contains some level of PFAS, and farms across the country have increasingly used the substance as fertilizer in recent decades. Michigan, one of the only other states to monitor biosolids and to test agricultural products, recently discovered PFAS-contaminated beef. “Many other states are going to be facing what Maine is facing now,” said Nancy Raine, secretary for Sierra Club’s wastewater residuals team. “Who is responsible for the harm done – the loss of livelihoods and property values?"