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PFAS committee public hearing set for Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta

Forever Chemicals Sludge
Robert F. Bukaty
AP file
In this Thursday Aug. 15, 2019 photo, dairy cows rest outside the home of Fred and Laura Stone at Stoneridge Farm in Arundel, Maine. The farm has been forced to shut down after sludge spread on the land was linked to high levels of PFAS in the milk.

The state's PFAS Fund Advisory Committee is holding a public hearing Wednesday during the Agricultural Trades Show at the Augusta Civic Center to update farmers on the status of the fund and its distribution.

The $60 million PFAS Fund approved by the state last year is intended to provide relief to Maine farmers whose land and water was contaminated with the "forever chemicals" that were in sludge that was spread as fertilizer through a state-licensed program.

State Sen. Stacy Brenner is co-chair of the PFAS Fund Advisory Committee. She says the committee has broken into four subcommittees that will look at PFAS research, health monitoring, a potential land buyback program for farmers and farm viability — providing support for farmers that pivot their business and stay in operation.

"It's so much harder to get a new farmer into farming and up to speed and invest in what they need to start farming, so as many of these businesses as we can keep running safely, efficiently and profitably is the goal," she says.

Brenner says the goal is to report back to the full committee in March and be able to begin distributing the funds sometime this summer.

The PFAS Fund Advisory Committee public hearing runs 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the Piscataquis and Sagadahoc rooms at the Augusta Civic Center.