Farmers warn of PFAS contamination

About five percent of cropland has used biosolids from municipalities as fertilizer and there are growing concerns about how the practice is spreading PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The ‘forever chemicals’ have been widely used in industrial applications but don’t break down naturally.

Maine dairy farmer Fred Stone says in 2016, his farm became ground zero as the first to be found contaminated with PFAS chemicals in the U.S.

“PFAS has managed to rob my dairy operation that goes back three generations, we’ve had to exterminate 80 percent of our herd,” he shares.

The farm had been using biosolids from the local wastewater facility from the 1980s to 2004.  After being notified his aquifer had high levels of the forever chemicals, Stone chose to investigate how it was impacting his cows, feed, and cropland. 

“That’s when our nightmare actually began,” he says. “At the very beginning, we were known as a unicorn, this didn’t happen anywhere else, and now it is starting to see national and worldwide recognition.”

Additional farmers from Maine, Michigan, Colorado, and New Mexico joined him Monday to share about similar discoveries made on their farms.

“It is a hazardous waste, my farm is now a hazardous waste site.”

“My land is contaminated, nobody’s going to buy it.”

“I think we’re just the tip of the iceberg.”

The state of Maine has so far found more than 70 farms have PFAS contamination following biosolid use and the Department of Defense has identified at least 4,000 farms across the U.S. that are at risk.

The farmers are calling for passage of the Relief for Farmers Hit with PFAS Act currently in Congress to create a safety net for contaminated farms as research and regulations continue to develop.

They were featured speakers during the Center for PFAS Research’s Annual Symposium in East Lansing, Michigan this week.

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