Singling out biosolids ignores science

A recent sampling and testing by an independent laboratory of 14 “organic-approved” agricultural products, which include everything from seafood and leaf and yard waste compost to hen manure and liquid fertilizers, unsurprisingly shows that all but two of the products tested had detectable levels of PFAS, some exceeding the screening levels.

We did not commission the tests to denigrate these products – we believe they are all good products and serve a need of many. The same is true of biosolids and biosolids composts which have comparable levels of PFAS. Rather, it is to demonstrate that even as organizations such as MOFGA advocate for a ban on sludge because it contains PFAS, the products that they have approved for use in organic management also contain PFAS, and some that have PFAS levels above the existing DEP standards.

In the interest of public health, organic products should be held to the same standard as biosolids and biosolids-based products.

The majority report of LD 1911 would ban the land application and sale of sludge and biosolids in Maine, with a carve-out for sludges from facilities that process agricultural materials – food, food waste, crops, or vegetative material and do nothing to address the products that were tested and found to contain these same compounds. 

Picking and choosing which types of sludge or composting products to ban would result in exempting some products that have detectable levels of PFAS while banning a number of products that test de minimis or non-detect for PFAS. 

The minority report would allow for that to happen and calls for the banning of the land application and sale of sludge and biosolids in Maine unless those materials tested below 25 parts per billion for PFOA and 50 parts per billion for PFOS. 

This would be the strictest PFAS standard for soil and compost in the country. 

A science-based approach would treat all products, sludge, and biosolids the same and would result in a better and safer solution for the land application and composting of all residuals.

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