WILTON – Wilton is moving forward with plans to address Maine’s new perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) bill.
Wilton Water and Wastewater Superintendent Heinz Grossman told the select committee at the Tuesday, May 17 meeting that he had ordered steel pipes that will be used to pump sludge produced at the plant. city wastewater treatment plant.
With supply chain issues still in play, Grossman said he hopes to receive the piping by the end of June, completing its installation in July to meet the August deadline.
Once the sludge is pumped out, the plan is to send the sludge from Wilton to a treatment facility in Madison “if they agree to take it,” Grossman said in a phone interview.
Grossman previously told council it could cost residents who use Wilton’s sewage treatment facility $160,000 a year to send sludge to a treatment facility.
The city has the option of purchasing equipment to treat and thicken the sludge. But Grossman told council he’s “reluctant” to go ahead with the road because it’s a big investment that would affect the city’s transfer station and waste management department.
If the Madison facility is unable to accept the sludge, the city will “sit on it” for now, Grossman said over the phone.
Prior to the legislation, Wilton turned sludge from the sewage treatment plant into compost that was offered to local residents and businesses.
The Select Board and Grossman had previously expressed concerns about what would become the bill’s final format, as it removed a minimum threshold at which the city’s sewage sludge would have fallen below.
The select council voted Tuesday, March 1 to send a letter to Gov. Janet Mills expressing concerns about the financial impact of the bill, what a ban on no-threshold sludge composting would mean for the city.
Previously, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection released PFAS screening levels with a limit from which corrective action should be taken. All three PFAS compounds did not exceed this threshold, according to test results conducted in January for the Wilton sewage treatment plant acquired by the Franklin Journal.
With the implementation of LD 1911, “An Act to Prevent Further Contamination of State Soils and Waters by So-called Eternal Chemicals”, the use of any sludge from sewage treatment plants is prohibited.
Asked about the numbers at the meeting, Grossman said “they’re below, but honestly…all people care about is if [PFAS contaminants are] in there… it’s also a question of optics.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” Grossman said. “Everyone in Augusta knows this is bringing the hammer down on all of Maine pretty quickly.”
“Every day I arrive I get one question answered and two more are asked,” he added.
Maine Takes Action Against PFAS
LD 1911 was passed on April 20 by Governor Janet Mills to, in part, prohibit the application, dissemination or sale of:
• “Sludge generated by a municipal, commercial or industrial treatment plant.
• “Composting material that includes in its production sludge generated by a sewage treatment plant or municipal, commercial or industrial sludge.”
• “Any other product or material intended for use as a fertilizer, soil amendment, topsoil replacement or mulch or for other similar agricultural purposes that is derived from or contains sewage generated sludge or sludge municipal, commercial or industrial. ”
The Press Herald reports that “the bill…gradually[s] on the sale, distribution and use of pesticides containing intentionally added per- or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, chemical compounds linked to significant risks to human health, including cancer, which have been detected at levels raised in farming communities in Maine.
Pam Harnden of Livermore Falls Advertiser reports that in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, cities in Franklin County were allowed to apply sewage sludge to agricultural fields as an alternative to fertilizer. In Wilton, sludge from the town’s sewage treatment plant was previously turned into compost, which residents could use on their land.
PFAS are found in a variety of consumer goods and sewage sludge, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says they have been linked in federal studies to health issues, including thyroid, liver problems and organ cancers. Research has found that levels of PFAS chemicals have also been found in freshwater fish and shellfish that could make them unsafe to eat, according to the Press Herald.
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