Oct 17, 2019

Maine DEP Seeks Authority Over Per- & Polyflouroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Cleanup

State environmental officials want the authority to order companies to clean up contamination from PFAS or to be allowed to tap state funds for remedying contaminated sites on their own.

State environmental officials want the authority to order companies to clean up contamination from PFAS or to be allowed to tap state funds for remedying contaminated sites on their own.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is preparing a proposal for the 2020 legislative session to gain the authority to cleanup per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

The DEP already has the authority to order responsible parties to clean up sites contaminated with potential toxins such as mercury or lead, but it lacks that ability with PFAS because the federal government has not added the grouping to its list of potentially hazardous chemicals.

The proposal would broaden Maine’s list to include PFAS and future “pollutants and contaminants” that emerge as concerns, according to Portland Press Herald

“We want to have the ability to pursue the responsible parties that have financial means to perform remediation and have some culpability for the contamination itself,” DEP Commissioner Jerry Reid said in an interview. “But this is not just about being able to order cleanup. It is about us being able to utilize these (state) funds so we can do the remediation ourselves, and allow us to perform the work that needs to be done to protect the public health.”

In 2018 lawmakers passed a bill to make Maine one of the first states to move to prohibit the use of PFAS in food packaging. Maine’s PFAS task force, created by Gov. Janet Mills earlier this year is examining the extent of PFAS contamination in Maine and recommending next steps to address the issue. 

“It’s the only way to make polluters pay for site cleanup or to access state money for cleanup,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Portland-based Environmental Health Strategy Center. “That’s the bottom line. We have leaking landfills and sludge-contaminated sites such as the Stone farm.”

There is a strong push to add PFAS to the list of contaminants eligible for inclusion in the Superfund program that provides federal money to clean up polluted sites.

Reid and Deputy DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim did not provide insight of sites that could be eligible for state funds or where the department might seek to hold a “responsible party” accountable for cleanup costs. The agency’s proposed legislation does not seek to go after municipal treatment plants, reported Portland Press Herald.

“I don’t know what kind of reception it is going to get in the Legislature. There will be a lot of concern about the definition of ‘responsible parties,’ ” said Reid. “We also need the state authority. There are so many PFAS-contaminated sites in Maine, as we are learning from the task force. So the state really has its hands full and the federal (Superfund) program would not be able to address them all.”

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