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. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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What we’re watching today

A widening catch-up effort to fight “forever chemicals” is developing into one of the biggest problems facing Maine on several fronts. Maine may have to spend up to $20 million per year just to remediate the toxic chemicals being widely found in agricultural land and water supplies across the state, top state officials told lawmakers on Tuesday. That total does not include any relief to those whose health and livelihoods are being harmed by them.

The problem with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances is a generational one. Before a lot was known about links to cancer and other health problems, it was common to dispose of municipal waste and paper company sludge by spreading it on agricultural land. The long-lasting chemicals also leach from landfills.

Since the plight of one farmer drew wide attention to the issue in 2019, Maine acted quickly to enshrine PFAS standards. The state has the nation’s lowest standard for PFAS in drinking water. The world’s first ban on PFAS in most products sold here will take effect in 2030. A ban on spreading sludge unless tested for the chemicals is being considered by the Legislature.

The state also began investigating PFAS contamination in 34 cities and towns where the most sludge is believed to have been applied over the years. Sampling all of the places identified by the state may take until 2025. The municipalities on the initial list are big and small from Dayton in the south to Presque Isle in the north.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has begun to run into resistance from some landowners who do not want their land tested, Susanne Miller, the director of remediation and waste management at the department, told lawmakers on Tuesday. But it is becoming clear that there will be wide effects on the state’s economy and even its culture.

“The long-term impacts of this investigation are going to extend far beyond the DEP — agriculture, hunting, fishing, gardening, wastewater and waste management,” she said. “We’ll all be affected.”

What we’re reading

— Mail is not being delivered daily on up to 3 percent of routes in Maine, the U.S. Postal Service told Sen. Susan Collins in a letter. That disclosure is the best recent quantification of widely reported delays. COVID-19 absences are blamed for the largest part of the problem, More than 6 percent of Maine’s customer service workers were out of work on Jan. 18 alone. Outsized delays were also expected here after the approval of a cost-cutting plan last year.

— Maine Democratic Party Chair Drew Gattine will stay in his post as he runs for a return to the state House. Party chairs have generally stayed away from getting into electoral politics themselves over the last two decades in Maine. He joins a Democratic primary for a newly redrawn Portland suburbs seat against Scarborough Town Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina.

— The second Maine lawmaker has died within a week. Rep. Donna Doore, D-Augusta, died of cancer on Tuesday after battling the disease during her fourth term. She was also a former city councilor, school board member and an active member of the state employees’ union.

Follow along today

9 a.m. The Legislature’s marine resources committee will hold hearings on bills on the lobster industry, including one that would establish a $3 million relief fund for those hurt by controversial federal closures. Watch here.

9:30 a.m. The economic development panel will hear a bill from Assistant Senate Majority Leader Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, that would establish the Maine Space Corporation, a quasi-state entity that would operate a data center, a business incubator and small launch sites for satellites. Watch here.

1 p.m. A bill from Sen. Donna Bailey, D-Saco, that would legalize the compound found in psychedelic mushrooms for medical use in Maine, will get a public hearing before the health committee. Watch here.

The Daily Brief is written by Bangor Daily News politics editor Michael Shepherd and made possible by BDN subscribers. Enjoy unlimited access to all we have to offer by subscribing

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...