AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is continuing to lead the nation in its effort to limit the spread of PFAS, the so-called toxic forever chemicals that have been connected to various health problems.
On Wednesday, the Legislature's Environment and Natural Resources Committee heard more than six hours of testimony on multiple bills aimed at how products containing PFAS are tested and regulated.
"It's a heavy lift, but it's necessary," Sen. Henry Ingwersen, D-Arundel, said.
Ingwersen is sponsoring one of the bills discussed Wednesday, which in part would update the state's PFAS products ban, add Department of Environmental Protection staff to carry out that ban, and also create an exemption for certain small businesses to not require testing.
"Eventually cut PFAS at its source. We're trying to identify where it is. We're trying to identify [who is] impacted and how to help them. This bill looks at stopping it where it's coming from," Ingwersen said.
In 2021, the Legislature passed a law that requires manufacturers of products with intentionally added PFAS to report it to the DEP by January 1, 2023. That law also bans any product containing intentionally added PFAS from being sold in Maine unless the product is specifically designated as having an unavoidable use by the DEP.
Some however believe that law and Ingwersen's proposal are too strong and broad, and would negatively impact businesses across the state.
"The current structure is unworkable. We have heard from members who have tried in good faith to comply with the law as it [is], but it's just the broad nature of it. It's really really unworkable. It's complex, it's confusing, and it's costly," Ben Lucas, senior government relations specialist with the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said.
"Being able to test and report potentially hundreds of thousands of products for 9,000 to 15,000 chemical compounds that make up the entire PFAS family is going to be very very challenging," Lucas added.
The bills presented Wednesday include;
LD 304: An Act to Establish Statewide Standards for Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
LD 1214: An Act to Clarify the Laws to Combat Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Contamination - Sen. Joseph Baldacci of Penobscot
LD 1273: An Act to Exempt Some Businesses from Certain Laws Relating to Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Accordance with the Size of the Business
LD 1537: An Act to Amend the Laws Relating to the Prevention of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances Pollution and to Provide Additional Funding
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is still undertaking the rulemaking process for testing for PFAS and reporting requirements.
Many in Maine's business community provided testimony on concerns over compliance with the current testing laws. But some, like Bill Lippincott, who says he lives downstream from the former Pine Tree Landfill, which he says is heavily contaminated with PFAS, want the government to do whatever it can to gain a better understanding of where PFAS exists and the impact it's having.
"It's not just landfills. PFAS, as I say, is everywhere. And we're not even aware of all the products it's in. So we've got to find out, and we've got to stop PFAS from being manufactured in our products," Lippincott said.
A committee work session on the proposed bills will be scheduled in the coming days. The Maine DEP plans to work with the committee and help provide information on the current rulemaking process, and what changes can best support their efforts to protect the public from PFAS contamination.