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At least 1,000 sites in Maine will be tested for PFAS contamination, state says

In this Thursday Aug. 15, 2019 photo, hay dries after a recent cut at Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Thursday Aug. 15, 2019 photo, hay dries after a recent cut at Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, Maine.

State environmental regulators say they've identified more than 1,000 sites in Maine that need to be tested for PFAS contamination.

A new report from Maine's Department of Environmental Protection shows the state has also sampled more than 1,500 wells for contamination, and 23% of them had PFAS above the state's accepted drinking water standards. The state has started or installed water filtration systems at about 300 sites so far.

Investigations at more than 200 sites where sludge was most prevalent are already complete or underway.

Maine's Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is also working with 34 farms that appear to be at the highest risk. Heather Spaulding of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association said she's pleased with the progress the state has made so far.

"But we're also concerned that there are a number of farmers who don't feel comfortable having their soil and water tested," she said. "And in the tier two and tier three communities, there are a lot more farms that will need to be tested."

State officials estimate it will cost anywhere from $19 million to $53 million to complete these investigations, depending on the number of sites that the department can test and the cost of remediating contamination. The investigations, the DEP said, will likely stretch beyond a 2025 deadline as the scope of the work expands.

The DEP alone has spent nearly $6 million on its investigations so far, a figure that doesn't include what other state agencies have spent on PFAS in the last few years.

Spaulding said the report shows the scope of a very expensive problem. MOFGA, along with the Maine Farmland Trust, coordinated and raised $1.3 million for farmers impacted by PFAS contamination. She said some $876,000 has been disbursed to farmers for testing, new water filtration systems and other support.

"We just need to recognize we've got to come up with more funding," she said. "We're just talking about income replacement and testing, infrastructure. "We're not even talking about the prospect of whole farm buyouts, which is a very real prospect for the state to be facing."

Spaulding said she's not aware that any buyouts are imminent, but farms across the state are closing because of PFAS contamination.