Maine Representatives propose PFAS solutions

Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 5:38 PM EDT
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(WABI) - Toxic forever chemicals known as PFAS can be found in everyday materials from nonstick cookware to stain-resistant carpets - and sometimes in Maine drinking water.

As prevalent as PFAS can be, the inadvertent effects and potential solutions are perhaps just as wide-ranging.

Ellsworth wastewater director Mike Harris says bills passed last year that banned the practice of composting biosolids, as well as the transportation of out-of-state trash into Maine, have changed the way they do business.

“We are spending a significant amount of money modifying our facility to allow us to ship directly to Canada,” Harris said. “That’s the only thing that we can do right now.”

But legislators want to know what happens if Canada stops taking out the trash.

“Thank God for our neighbors in Canada,” Rep. Michael Soboleski, R-Phillips, said. “Thank you very much for everything that you’re doing to help us out of this crisis situation.”

“If at some point Canada decides to say, ‘We don’t want you to send that to us anymore,’ I don’t know where we’re going to take it,” Harris said. “And it’s not going to stop coming.”

That’s why Soboleski wants to pause the out-of-state waste ban. He says oversized bulky waste is necessary to bind with the biosolids to prevent landfill leeching.

“It’s so wet when they dump it in the landfill, it has to have something to bulk with it to absorb it,” Sobeleski said. “We’re using it as a business product, not as waste from another state, a business product, to bulk in our landfill. We’ll suspend it for 24 months while we work out a solution.”

That solution could involve a central facility in Madison to remove PFAS from contaminated water.

“Effectively by having one hub-and-spoke-type solution where it’s a centralized location, really convenient for the state,” ECT2 Business Development Manager Patrick McKeown said. “It allows you to have a really good environmental program.

“With a straight face, to be able to say that there’s no PFAS entering the environment, and then provide a solution for all the towns’ wastewater plants so they can go back to acting like conventional wastewater plants,” McKeown added.

McKeown, a UMaine graduate, has already implemented this at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with encouraging results.

“We’ve been remediating PFAS-impacted water there since 2018,” McKeown said. “We’ve treated around 100 million gallons and we’ve yet to generate a single drum of waste - and that’s at PFAS levels that are way higher than what we see at the wastewater in Madison.”

The pitch for funding will go before the legislature Wednesday morning as part of five public hearings on PFAS-related bills.