WasteWatch 2024: Maine

Maine is known for its rocky coastline, serene national parks, and being the end point of the Appalachian trail. In recent years legislation has been passed to safeguard water sources. Despite such initiatives, Maine continues to deal with several environmental challenges such as PFAS, bacterial contamination, eutrophication, and excess waste in landfills.

This week, Moore Halfon and Doug Hendry discuss the current PFAS ban that could possibly excuse agricultural pesticides in Maine.

Here is what you need to know:
The basics: 
Life expectancy – 77.8, 14th in the nation
Population – 1.372 million
Land area – 30,836.6 sq miles, Water area – 4,533.8 sq miles
Maine has over 5,785 lakes and 32,000 miles of rivers and streams

Main Environmental Challenges: 
PFAS contamination in Maine comes from a variety of sources including municipal sludge, landfill leachate, residential septic systems, and certain AFFF fire fighting foams. PFAS have also been used for agricultural purposes. 
Bacterial contamination: Bacterial contamination in Maine can be attributed to an abundance of rainfall, which has led to increased runoff. This runoff collects bacteria, eventually depositing into coastal waters. These contaminants can cause health complications for those who are exposed, where bacteria such as e.coli have been discovered in more than 40 instances across the state. Affected sites include schools, housing, hotels, and campgrounds.

Organizations advocating for the environment and water: 
Maine Water Environment AssociationMaine Conservation VotersNatural Resources Council of MaineMaine Water Utilities AssociationDefend Our Health , Lakes Environmental AssociationWoodard & Curran Foundation

Environmental journalists to follow in Maine:
Bill Trotter
Kevin Miller
Annie Ropeik

Environmental News (See the articles in the comments)
– Of 91 water wells tested by the state, 33 had unsafe levels of PFAS. (Central Maine, 2023)
– 502 drinking water sites tested higher PFAS levels than Maine’s safety standards. (Portland Press Herald, 2023)
–  50+ farms have unsafe levels of PFAS in their soil and water. (Maine Public, 2023)
– PFAS was found in nearly 1,000 products sold in Maine (Portland Press Herald).
 – Maine detected e.coli in its water systems roughly 4 times more than in 2022 (Maine Public, 2023).
– 10 beaches have elevated levels of bacteria and 5 other beaches have bacteria levels higher than what the DEP considers safe (Fox23, 2023).

Next Steps:
Maine is on the forefront of addressing PFAS contamination with some of the strictest regulations in the nation. In spite of this, there are other steps that the state should consider to ensure zero PFAS presence and bacterial contamination. In order to accomplish this feat Maine should look to invest in technology and innovation preventing PFAS and other contamination before sewage sludge is used for agricultural and other applications.