NACWA Takes National PFAS Perspective on the Road; Learns from Maine Public Clean Water Agencies

(September 18, 2019) – NACWA attended the Maine Water Environment Association’s (MEWEA) annual convention and first-time PFAS Summit last week in Northport, Maine.

The meeting drew nearly 300 participants from across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont and included a robust three-tract conference along with a separate tract devoted specifically to PFAS and biosolids. Maine continues to be a hot spot for PFAS both regionally and nationally with stringent state regulations impacting resource recovery efforts and biosolids land application.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Commissioner, Jerry Reid, provided a keynote address where he discussed his decision to screen biosolids for PFOA and PFOS and 2.5 parts per billion (ppb) and 5.2 ppb, respectively. This decision effectively established a moratorium on biosolids land application unless it could be demonstrated that PFOA/PFOS concentrations were below these thresholds.  It has also set a concerning precedent that other states, even though there is no scientific evidence that these levels create actual human health risks, may follow.  

While there continues to be no federally approved analytical testing method for PFAS in biosolids, as well as concern that these very low thresholds were based on inaccurate methodologies, the Commissioner held firm in his initial decision - but also stated he was open to possibly re-evaluating these screening levels. In addition, he specifically mentioned that the public clean water utility sector and those that land apply biosolids should not be held financially liable under a CERCLA/Superfund hazardous substance designation.

NACWA’s Emily Remmel, alongside Tim Williams with the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and Reuben Baris, EPA’s newly hired biosolids expert within the Office of Water, provided a complete national perspective on PFAS and biosolids from a regulatory, legislative, and legal perspective.

NACWA would like to thank Scott Firmin with the Portland Water District and MEWEA President, Stacy Thompson, with the City of Saco, Maine for the invitation to speak. An additional thank you to Ned Beecher for facilitating the session and Jeff McBurnie for being an excellent tour guide of the Casella Organics composting facility.