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‘Forever Chemicals’ on Farmland Are a Slow-motion Disaster

Maine farmers are resourceful and resilient, but nothing could have prepared them for this invisible and insidious disaster. “We are… the human collateral of PFAS-contaminated biosolids,” observed organic farmer Nell Finnegan of Albion, casualties of a decades-long practice of spreading sludge tainted by “forever chemicals.”

PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), thousands of unregulated chemicals widely used for stain and water resistance, end up in wastewater sludge. State and federal regulators have promoted these “biosolids” as economical fertilizers, unaware until recent years that pernicious chemicals were seeping into groundwater. While still under study, PFAS exposure is already linked to numerous health problems, including higher incidence of some cancers, reproductive issues and interference with immune and hormonal systems.

“They accumulate… little by little until we’re full of them,” Finnegan said. “Full of them like my family and I are.”

Sludge spread on neighboring lands contaminated their well — throwing their family into “a tailspin, a torturous limbo… teetering on the edge of losing everything.