Beneath the Surface: Erin Brockovich on PFAS in Central Maine (Part One)

Published: Jun. 9, 2022 at 8:12 PM EDT
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FAIRFIELD, Maine (WABI) - Central Maine residents affected by forever chemicals known as PFAS now have a big-time endorsement in their fight for clean water.

Renowned environmental activist Erin Brockovich, whose battle against contaminated California water was adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie, recently stopped by Fairfield and Unity to show her support.

Brockovich and her team have spent more than 30 years advocating for communities in what she calls the national water crisis.

But, as she told us, Maine’s levels of forever chemicals are the highest she’s ever seen.

“The PFAS forever chemical is going to be the biggest public health threat we have seen in the United States of America. It is.”

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich doesn’t mince words when it comes to tackling toxic water. She first heard about the problem in Maine two years ago, and is looking to make a big difference.

“They’re aware of it nationally,” Brockovich said. “It’s just, they don’t want to talk about it yet. But, that’s why we’re here - we’re gonna push that conversation forward.”

Seated beside the Kennebec River on a perfect spring day, Brockovich is aware of the irony that lies below.

“The beauty and the tranquility of the rivers and the woods the environment means so much to me, Brockovich said. “And then when I stand here, sometimes I feel sadness because I know what lurks beneath, and that upsets me.”

And she’s not alone.

“I think Maine’s probably the most contaminated, you have some of the highest levels I’ve seen in the country,” said environmental investigator Bob Bowcock.

Bowcock says the once-encouraged farming practice of spreading biosolids, which included human waste, did not meet all the safety standards.

“They didn’t care what was in the biosolids,” Bowcock said. “They didn’t care what was in the sludge, as long as it was bacteriologically safe. And quite frankly, that’s irresponsible.”

“The fact that this has gotten into the food chain, and the idea that it has destroyed farming in the state of Maine, it’s a wreck,” Brockovich said. “It really is eye opening.

Now, the Fairfield community is coming together to make things right with its water.

“Today, we’ve got over 450 members in our Fairfield group, and it’s just growing,” said Fairfield resident Lawrence Higgins. “But, it’s been a long ride.”

“We finally got attention to a lot of people that were not aware of this problem,” added his wife, Penny Higgins. “It’s widespread, everybody needs to know about it.”

Brockovich says it’s simple.

“At the end of the day, we all care about our health, our family, clean water, our farmland, and the food that we eat. So, this can’t be anything where we stand divided,” Brockovich starts, before gesturing to the river behind her.

“When this is gone, we’re gone. This is worth the fight.”

We’ll hear more on the Higgins family’s struggle with PFAS, and share more information ahead of a crucial Fairfield town vote that could present a possible solution, in part 2 of our special report, which you can read here.

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