Lisa Gilbreath and Sara Murphy Co-author Law360 Article: What Maine’s Recent PFAS Crackdown Means for Companies

Excerpted from the Law360 article, published 6/29/2022

With a population of only 1.3 million, Maine is a “nationwide trendsetter” for its “aggressive approach” to regulating polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Maine is “leading the way in its efforts to reduce human health risk from PFAS, by reducing or eliminating these ‘forever chemicals’ in products and the environment.”

In 2019, Mane Governor Janet Mills commissioned a task force to “review the extent of PFAS contamination in Maine,” and have state agencies investigate the prevalence of PFAS , develop “science-driven limits, and evaluate toxicological data.”

Over the past three years, Maine’s legislature has passed a variety of bills intended to address the use, sale, and disposal of products containing PFAS and other “forever chemicals.” Earlier this year, supported by testimony from Maine dairy farmers, the legislature passed laws “related to the use of PFAS in pesticides sold or produced in Maine.” These  farmers alleged that the sludge used on their farmlands “contributed to PFAS found in their dairy production” and in their groundwater and soil.

But not all farmers support these bills, because “they limit the available options to obtain affordable fertilizer for farming operations.”  Waste management companies have also objected to these bills, as they now have to “contend with disposing of additional biosolids in landfills, further limiting the amount of space available in landfill cells for Maine waste.”  

Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of products containing PFAS need to carefully consider how they plan to comply with all of Maine’s regulations, and should be aware of the recent lawsuits involving mass tort and class action claims for “medical monitoring, personal injury, diminished property values, and emotional distress.” And while previous litigation has focused on PFAS manufacturers, “recent filings from Maine courts indicate that companies down the supply chain – including disposal companies and landfill operators – are also being targeted."

Any company involved in the manufacture, use, sale, or distribution of PFAS needs to quickly develop a business strategy for dealing with the potential of “lengthy court battles,” and should consider “insurance coverage, e-discovery management, expert engagement, and appropriate settlement opportunities.”

Please contact article authors and Pierce Atwood environmental attorneys Lisa Gilbreath or Sara Murphy for questions, concerns, or further guidance on any PFAS-related issue.

Integral Consulting technical director Patrick Gwinn also co-wrote this article. Law360 subscribers can click here to view the complete article, published on 6/29/2022.