WILTON — The Wilton Select Board passed a motion Tuesday, March 1, to send a letter to Gov. Janet Mills expressing concerns about a bill in the Maine Legislature that aims to protect residents from certain toxic substances, but that could increase costs to the town by thousands of dollars annually.

The legislation, outlawing the spreading of sludge known to contain so-called “forever chemicals” commonly referred to as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), is now proceeding through the legislative process.

The motion by the Select Board to send a letter to Mills was approved following Water and Wastewater Superintendent Heinz Grossman’s report on how the bill could impact the town.

Grossman told the board the town would have to direct sludge from the wastewater station to the landfill, rather than offering it as compost to local residents and businesses.

As a result, the town would have to process the sludge for landfill usage either with new equipment or at an out-of-state processing facility.

Grossman estimated the processing facility would cost residents who use Wilton’s wastewater facility a collective $160,000 a year.


PFAS are found in a variety of consumer goods and waste sludge, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says they have been linked in federal studies to health problems including thyroid disease, liver problems and organ cancers.

In the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, Franklin County towns were licensed to spread sewage sludge on agricultural fields as an alternative to fertilizer. In Wilton, sludge from the town’s wastewater facility is processed into compost, which residents can use on their land.

However, the presence of PFAS in the sludge came to public attention in Maine in recent years. Currently, many towns involving hundreds of sites have been identified by the Department of Environmental Protection as a top priority for PFAS testing.

LD 1911 would stipulate that sludge could not be spread on land or used in composting unless it tested under the state’s screening levels for multiple types of PFAS compounds.

In its current form, the bill would direct the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to establish “a screening level for beneficial use” beyond which sludge cannot be spread.

In an interview following the meeting, Wilton Water and Wastewater Department operator Dalton Plante said the town has tested the wastewater facility for three PFAS and found two “were below the [DEP’s] critical thresholds” and one was not detectable.


Selectperson Tom Saviello raised concerns about the financial impact the bill could have on residents. Saviello wants the bill to establish a minimum threshold so that towns below the limit could continue with the composting.

Town Manager Rhonda Irish said in an interview that it’s still unclear at this point what impact the bill could have on the town. She and Saviello, who will write the letter on behalf of the Select Board, will be keeping an eye on the legislation as it moves through the Legislature.

It was referred to the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Jan. 5, which issued a divided report on the bill March 2.

“We’re only in the very beginning stages of this [letter],” Irish said. “Everything is being discussed. Nothing’s been decided yet.”

Saviello said in an interview that the letter is not necessarily in opposition to the bill or PFAS regulation. Rather, he wants Mills to understand the financial impact a bill without exemptions could have on municipalities and their residents.

“We’ll probably still send a letter to say, ‘We’re watching it knowing that you’re going to set this to make sure that we’re exempt from it and it’s going to be reasonable,'” Saviello said.


Saviello is concerned for residents who use the wastewater facility that are on limited incomes and cannot afford an increase in taxes that could come from the legislation.

“[The Select Board] didn’t want to wait until legislation that already occurred. They wanted to say that this is coming down the road [and] it’s occurred after we put our budget process in place in January, February,” Irish said.

Grossman expressed frustration at Tuesday’s meeting that the town “never made these chemicals, we never use these chemicals. They get dumped on us, now we have to pay for it.”

“The people that make them are still making their millions. And we have to deal with it,” Grossman said. “I get it, it’s a problem. But it’s a problem that unfortunately, it’s going to come at a fairly big cost.”

As a result, Grossman is halting his request to implement a 5% increase to the town’s sewer rates until they know the financial impact the proposed legislation could have on Wilton.

As it stands, the Water and Wastewater Department is “not allowing the public to come in and take the sludge away, not until the legislation is made clear what they intend to do and how they intend to move forward,” Plante said.


However, sludge would not be available to residents at this time of year anyway as it is stockpiled during the winter because the sludge must “hit a minimum internal temperature for it to be officially determined compost by the DEP,” Plante said.

Plante and Irish acknowledged that “public sentiment is for not wanting to apply these products on their land as much anymore.”

“We don’t want people to come and take the material and then go panic about the potential for a PFAS-related issue,” Plante said.

The motion passed unanimously.

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