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Governor’s Address: Task Force Will Address PFAS Exposure in Maine

In response to reports nationwide regarding the prevalence of a group of chemicals known as PFAS, earlier this week I signed an Executive Order creating a Governor’s Task Force to mobilize state agencies and other stakeholders to review the prevalence of PFAS in Maine and to put forward a plan to address these dangerous chemicals.

While PFAS were once common chemicals used in products ranging from clothing to cookware, scientific studies reveal that they could pose a danger to the health of people, which is why they have been phased out over the past several decades. But because of their frequent use since the 1950s, contaminated sites have been identified across the country, including some here in Maine.

For instance, traces of PFAS have been detected at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station and the former Loring Air Force Base, where work is underway to determine the extent of PFAS in the surrounding environment.

This should not be a cause for alarm, but it is important for the state to identify any locations in Maine where PFAS are prevalent and to examine their effects on drinking water supplies, freshwater fish, and marine resources; and to take steps to create and implement treatment and disposal options.

Back in May, 2016, when the hazards of these chemicals first became evident, the federal EPA actually issued a drinking water Health Advisory for PFAS. But, when the EPA released its Action Plan last month, it failed to include any commitment to setting a drinking water standard for those chemicals and, instead, simply delayed evaluating that issue for at least another year.

That’s disappointing. As a result, there is Congressional action pending and other states, such as New Hampshire, are taking steps to create drinking water standards relating to PFAS on their own. Now Maine is following suit.

The Task Force established by my Executive Order will be chaired by a public health expert who will mobilize state government and experts across Maine to ensure that we all have accurate information about this issue and that we have the tools we need to address it.

This Task Force will include the Commissioners of the Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP), Health and Human Services (DHHS), Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), and Defense, Veterans, and Emergency Management, in addition to other nonprofit and industry experts.

The Task Force will issue a report to my office with findings and recommendations to address PFAS exposure and contamination in Maine.

My administration will move swiftly to address this public health concern, but as the Task Force begins its work, I invite any individual or organization who may be concerned about PFAS or who is seeking additional information to call the Maine Department of Environmental Protection at (207) 215–1894.

Thank you.

Janet Mills

Governor

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