PFAS Fund Advisory Committee Approves Plan for Administration of the Fund to Address PFAS Contamination

July 11, 2023

For more information contact: Jim Britt at: (207) 480-0558

Augusta, ME - The Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) announced today that the PFAS Fund Advisory Committee unanimously approved the Plan for Administration of the Fund to Address PFAS Contamination. This represents a crucial step in assisting Maine farms impacted by PFAS contamination and reaffirms Maine's commitment to protecting human health and maintaining farm viability. The PFAS Fund will expand upon existing support extended to impacted farmers through the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources. It will provide critical aid to Maine farms grappling with PFAS contamination, working to revitalize their operations while also reinforcing the state's steadfast commitment to the welfare of its citizens and the longevity of its agricultural sector.

"Today marks a significant milestone in Maine's effort to combat PFAS contamination. The PFAS Fund Advisory Committee has approved a well-informed plan for the Fund's administration, which represents hundreds of hours of time invested by farmers, finance and business experts, researchers, healthcare professionals, legislators, and many others to activate critical resources to address this pressing issue," said DACF Commissioner Amanda Beal. "Together, we are determined to safeguard our agricultural landscapes and protect our communities from the harmful effects of PFAS."

Governor Mills' establishment of the PFAS Task Force in 2019 marked the State of Maine's start to proactively addressing PFAS contamination. With bipartisan support and significant resources allocated by the Legislature, the State has since implemented a first-of-its-kind, cross-agency response effort to identify the extent of PFAS contamination and provide financial and other support to impacted communities. DACF works directly with impacted farmers, offering guidance and resources to navigate the uncertainties associated with PFAS contamination. The PFAS Fund is the latest initiative to provide comprehensive assistance to commercial farmers and individuals affected by PFAS.

The PFAS Fund will be crucial in augmenting existing DACF financial assistance to support commercial farms throughout the investigation and implementation of recovery strategies. It will, for example, provide income replacement payments, cover the costs of necessary infrastructure upgrades, and support "navigators" who will offer guidance to producers on how to obtain assistance and services.

In cases where the extent of contamination is impossible to overcome, the PFAS Fund can purchase PFAS-impacted property at fair market value as if there was no PFAS contamination.

Research is also a cornerstone of the PFAS Fund, which will launch a competitive research grant program to fund studies that help farmers determine the best options for maintaining and enhancing viability despite the presence of PFAS. It will also seek to establish a dedicated research station on one of the purchased parcels of land.

Addressing the health concerns of affected individuals is a critical aspect of the PFAS Fund. It will support access to healthcare for impacted commercial farm families, farm workers, and residents whose drinking water wells were contaminated by PFAS because of the land application of biosolids. The Fund proposes covering costs not otherwise covered by insurance for blood testing, mental health care, and medical monitoring. Additionally, it will support a clinical trial for PFAS body burden reduction treatments and a study to determine routes and magnitude of soil-related PFAS exposure.

DACF was required to develop an implementation plan before using the funds. The PFAS Fund advisory committee and its four subcommittees collectively met 30 times in six months to craft, review, and approve this Plan and its 23 specific strategic recommendations. PFAS Fund Director Beth Valentine oversaw the process, including two public hearings to review and discuss the Fund and proposals. DACF appreciates the dedication and hard work of all committee and subcommittee members, as well as of co-chairs Senator Stacy Brenner and Representative Jessica Fay.

The DACF acknowledges that the discovery of PFAS on a commercial farm is devastating. However, with the support of existing programs and the additional assistance provided by the PFAS Fund, Maine will continue to lead the nation in helping commercial farmers overcome the challenges presented by PFAS contamination.

About the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

DACF protects and promotes the Maine environment, agriculture, and forests while serving the public and agricultural and natural resources sectors. With a commitment to sustainable practices, DACF ensures the responsible management and stewardship of the state's valuable natural resources