Adam Nordell visits the family farm in Unity he used to operate with his partner, but after it tested for staggeringly high levels of PFAS, he had to shut it down. Now he is an activist lobbying for improved testing and more research on the health effects of PFAS. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The Maine economy will shrink and major employers may leave if state lawmakers do not change a first-in-the-country law that will ban the sale of non-essential products containing harmful forever chemicals in 2030, according to the Maine Chamber of Commerce.

On Monday, Chamber President Patrick Woodcock urged lawmakers to eliminate the section of the 2021 law requiring companies to start notifying the state next year if their products contain PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, and expand the list of industries exempted from the eventual 2030 ban.

In a news briefing, Woodcock called the state’s existing PFAS law well-intentioned but unworkable.

“There is universal recognition that this statute needs to change,” Woodcock said. When asked what will happen if the law remains unchanged, he said: “If this statute is not amended this session, there will be a complete rethinking of the long-term relationship with the state of Maine for some key employers.”

Woodcock did not quantify how much of a hit the economy would take if the PFAS product ban law were to stand, nor identify which companies might take their business elsewhere. But Chris Kilgour, CEO of C&L Aviation Group in Bangor, had previously told lawmakers such a ban would force him to relocate.

Trade groups like the Maine Marine Trades Association and businesses such as Idexx Laboratories Inc. of Westbrook think the state should focus on eliminating PFAS from consumer products that have safer ingredient options available rather than targeting highly regulated advanced manufacturing processes.


Maine’s boating industry wants to eliminate as much PFAS from the environment as possible, as fast as it can, but it is not big enough to force global parts manufacturers to test their products for the compounds, much less eliminate them, said Stacey Keefer, the association’s executive director.

Maine should go after the “low-hanging fruit,” such as personal care items, first, Keefer said.

“There are way more people in this state wearing waterproof mascara on a daily basis containing PFAS right up against their skin and body than people coming into contact with the head gasket on a marine engine,” Keefer said. “It’s about managing risk.”

Business leaders have been meeting with state lawmakers, Gov. Janet Mills’ staff, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and environmental groups to negotiate an amendment that could be taken up by the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee this session.

When asked if Idexx, one of the state’s biggest employers, would relocate or scale back production if the law is not changed, tax director Geoff Baur would only say that he is confident ongoing talks will result in an amendment that will protect the environment and Maine’s economy.

The committee could rewrite a PFAS-related holdover bill to make changes if the talks are successful and the parties agree to a compromise, Woodcock said. But at least one environmental group attending these stakeholder meetings is opposed to any weakening of Maine’s PFAS ban.


Defend Our Health, a Portland-based environmental watchdog group, said the first wave of PFAS reports that 60 companies filed to the state to comply with the reporting section of the PFAS ban is proof the law works. The companies that admitted using PFAS ranged from makers of shampoo to school supplies.

“More than 40 companies of all size and complexity have already proven that Maine’s PFAS law is very workable,” said founder Michael Belliveau. “Industry’s wish to repeal the PFAS reporting requirements and exempt major users of PFAS from the 2030 phaseout is dangerous and unjustifiable.”

But the sample only represented a fraction of the market. The DEP handed out at least 2,500 extensions to companies that said they didn’t have enough time and couldn’t get enough information from suppliers to meet the law’s initial 2023 deadline. Lawmakers later extended the deadline to 2025.

Belliveau said Defend Our Health would support an amendment that quickly prohibits the use of PFAS in additional product categories, like clothes or ski wax, and that narrows PFAS reporting to reduce the administrative burden on small companies or ensures the safety of advanced manufacturing equipment.

“But blanket exemptions are unwarranted,” Belliveau said. “The European Union, after an exhaustive analysis, has concluded that almost all uses of PFAS are replaceable with safer alternatives by the end of this (decade). We agree.”

Maine law already provides a relief valve, Belliveau said. Industry can apply for a temporary exemption from the PFAS ban if its use is “currently unavoidable.” That gives companies plenty of time to search for safer alternatives, Belliveau said.


Perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are called forever chemicals because they take so long to break down and can linger in the environment for decades. Even trace amounts are linked to compromised immune systems, low birth weights and several types of cancer.

Maine is on the front lines of PFAS legislation. Last year, after a string of farms connected to the state’s decades-old sludge-spreading program shut down because of PFAS contamination, Maine became the first state to ban sludge recycling and PFAS in nonessential products.

To date, Maine has identified 56 PFAS-contaminated farms.

Over the past two years, Maine has dedicated more than $100 million to address PFAS.

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