Laboratory testing of biosolid fertilizers sold in Maryland has confirmed ultra-high levels of toxic per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), according to results released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
PEER, the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, and the Sugarloaf Citizens Association are asking Montgomery County officials to prohibit the application of class A and B biosolids, such as Bloom fertilizer products, on county agriculture fields, golf courses and public lands to prevent further contamination of ground and surface waters.
Letter to the Council and Executive
Summary Lab Test
Full Lab Report
What Are Biosolids and Why Are They Such a Problem?
PFAS from biosolids migrate to surface water and groundwater. They are also taken up by plants and ingested by humans and livestock. Impacts of spreading these biosolids have lead to farms in Maine with elevated PFAS levels having to shut down. Governors in New England have banned biosolid fertilizers for this reason. It is important to note farms certified USDA Organic and Certified Naturally Grown are prohibited from using biosolids.
The Reserve is particularly at risk of this kind of contamination of drinking water as it sits atop the federally designated Piedmont Sole Source Aquifer - the only source of drinking water for local wells in the western Reserve - outside the WSSC envelope by design. (How does a well work?). With the thin soils and fractured geology of the area, there is more transmission between ground and surface waters in this area.
The EPA will complete the risk assessment for PFOA and PFOS in biosolids by December 2024. It would be prudent at minimum, given the persistent nature of these chemicals, to suspend land applications (all sources in MC) until the assessment is complete.
- Health: PFAS have been documented to cause long term health issues in humans - particularly in children.
- Forever - Means Forever: These are chemicals that can't be "washed off" farm products and they evade most filtration systems. The EPA is looking into how to handle groundwater contamination but in their words “The answers can’t come soon enough.“
- Economics: Farms and Ranches from Maine to New Mexico have had to shut down because of PFAS contamination. A broader contamination - or perceived contamination-of Montgomery County's farms could be devastating for local businesses.
From a study at Duke of the most effective water filters, “Home filters are really only a stopgap. The real goal should be control of PFAS contaminants at their source.” PFAS are already everywhere but many of them bio-accumulate, meaning reducing further exposure can mitigate health impacts. Track PFAS contamination with this interactive map from Environmental Working Group. It is important to note that these substances are widespread, toxic and largely un or under regulated - leaving the consumer to invest in their own protection. When the level of protection is based on what solutions a household can afford, this becomes an environmental justice issue.
- Check to see if your drinking water source has been tested for PFAS; if not, consider collecting tap samples and sending them for testing to My Tap Score. Given the relatively reasonable costs, consider ordering both the advanced water test AND the PFAS test.
-Duke and NC State compared a number of water filters for their ability to filter out PFAS. This was one that fared well in testing.
-Ditch any teflon or other non-stick cookware
-Use the Environmental Working Group Database to find personal care items that have been found to be safer. Start with your floss.
-Achievable steps from the EPA