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Maine’s new fishing limits are examples of ongoing state actions to combat PFAS

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More than $3 billion has been spent by the states to eliminate those harmful “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.  Thirty-four states have considered 302 policies to protect people from the toxins, with 144 adopted in 28 states.

Eleven states (ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WA, and WI) have standards such as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for certain PFAS in drinking water. Maine has an interim standard that is in effect and enforceable while they go through rulemaking to establish final PFAS MCLs. 

Delaware and Virginia have also begun establishing standards for certain PFAS. Twelve additional states (AK, CA, CT, CO, HI, IL, MD, MN, NC, NM, OH, and OR) have adopted guidance, health advisory, or notification levels for certain PFAS chemicals.

Maine has recently updated and expanded its fish consumption advisories as part of that state’s broader work to limit its resident’s exposure to PFAS.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has made the changes in its freshwater fish consumption advisories following ongoing PFAS testing of water bodies across the state.

Testing of fish in these locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, above Maine CDC’s recommended levels for regular consumption. Based on the results of those tests, the Maine CDC now recommends limiting consumption of all fish or certain fish from the seven waterbodies listed below. 

Three advisories are expansions of those issued last year, and four bodies of water are new additions. With these updates and additions, 16 waterbodies in Maine currently have a freshwater fish consumption advisory. All fish consumption advisories are listed on the Maine CDC’s website.

Elevated levels of the PFAS called perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected in fish tissue samples from McGrath Pond and Salmon Lake in Belgrade and Oakland; Aroostook River in Caribou; Kenduskeag Stream in Kenduskeag and Bangor; Kennebec River in Waterville; Limestone Stream in Fort Fairfield; Annabessacook Lake in Monmouth and Winthrop; and Sandy and Halfmoon Streams in Unity and Thorndike. The new fish consumption advisories  apply to game fish caught in these waterbodies.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), at least 45 percent of the nation’s tap water is estimated to have one or more types of PFAS chemicals. There are more than 12,000 types of PFAS, not all of which can be detected with current tests; The USGS study tested for the presence of 32 types. 

Maine, in 2019, established by Executive Order a Governor’s Task Force to review the prevalence of PFAS in Maine and to put forward a plan to address it. That Task Force has led to aggressive actions to address PFAS contamination in Maine, including:

  • Implementing one of the nation’s earliest and strictest standards for PFAS in drinking water;
  • securing tens of millions more dollars in state funding to remediate PFAS contamination, including testing and remediation efforts through drinking water treatment systems;
  • establishing screening levels for PFAS in soil, fish and game, milk, and beef;
  • signing a first-in-the-nation law prohibiting the spreading of sludge, a widespread source of PFAS;
  • Establishing a $60 million PFAS Fund to support farmers whose land and water are contaminated with PFAS;
  • Dedicating funds to assess the impact of PFAS on Maine’s fish and wildlife, allowing for the testing of hundreds of deer, turkeys, and fish that documented how PFAS in the environment impacts Maine’s fish and wildlife;
  • expanding the statute of limitations for Maine citizens to file claims for PFAS contamination and
  • Supporting Attorney General Aaron Frey’s lawsuit against PFAS manufacturers.

In total, Maine has invested more than $100 million since 2019 to address PFAS, which is a group of man-made chemicals found in a variety of consumer products.  Exposure to certain PFAS chemicals has been associated with changes in liver and kidney function, changes in cholesterol levels, decreased immune response to vaccines in children, complications during pregnancy, and increased risk of kidney cancer and possibly testicular cancer.

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