Texas farmers, watchdog group demand EPA act on PFAS in farm fertilizer

By Shannon Kelleher

In the wake of fresh evidence that US farms are being poisoned by PFAS-laden fertilizers, a watchdog group and two Texas farm families said Thursday they plan to sue regulators to try to force protective actions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has violated the Clean Water Act by failing to regulate at least 12 per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in treated sewage sludge (biosolids) applied to agricultural lands, allege Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the farmers in a notice of intent to sue sent Feb. 22 to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. Studies have linked these particular PFAS chemicals to asthma, disrupted thyroid hormones, immune suppression, kidney problems, lung issues in children, and other health effects, the letter says.

The agency has also unlawfully failed to include in its regular biosolids reports at least 18 additional PFAS chemicals that scientific studies indicate are present in biosolids, PEER and the farmers allege.

PEER and the farmers will sue the EPA within 60 days if the agency does not take immediate action, said PEER executive director Timothy Whitehouse in the notice of intent to sue.

“EPA has deemed it acceptable for biosolids containing PFAS and other known toxic chemicals to be applied directly to soil as fertilizer, where these man-made contaminants then build up in the environment, exacerbating the PFAS contamination crisis,” wrote Whitehouse. “This is not protective of human health or the environment.”

“Because there are no standards, farmers, ranchers, and gardeners have no warning that they are potentially poisoning their soil, water, livestock, and pets with these biosolid fertilizer products,” Kyla Bennett, director of science policy for PEER, said in a press release. “Prompt, responsible regulatory action by EPA would prevent untold damage and heartache.”