Off-the-Charts PFAS in Maryland Biosolid Fertilizers

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Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Tim Whitehouse, PEER,, (240) 247-0299
Caroline Taylor, Montgomery Countryside Alliance,, (301) 461-9831
Steven Findlay, Sugarloaf Citizens Association,, (301) 908-8659



Off-the-Charts PFAS in Maryland Biosolid Fertilizers

Call for Montgomery County Ban on Biosolids to Stem Water Contamination


Silver Spring, MD — 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.

PFAS from biosolids migrate to surface water and groundwater. They are also taken up by plants and ingested by humans and livestock. PFAS in biosolid fertilizers have led to shutdowns of dairies, ranches, and other farming operations in states from Maine to New Mexico.

PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment. Virtually every PFAS studied for toxicity is associated with adverse health effects ranging from thyroid dysfunction to liver and kidney cancers. PFAS also are especially deleterious to children, causing problems from delayed development to decreased response to vaccines.

“These are some of the highest levels of PFAS in biosolids we have seen in the country,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, a former enforcement attorney with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and resident of Poolesville. “We are urging Montgomery County to take immediate steps to stop the use of contaminated sewage sludge on county farms and other lands.”

Eurofins Laboratory testing of Bloom biosolid fertilizer commissioned by PEER shows –

    • PFOA (a major form of PFAS) levels of 21 parts-per-billion (ppb). This is 5.3 million times higher than the EPA Lifetime Health Advisory Level for PFOA in drinking water, which is .004 parts- per-trillion;
    • PFOS (another major PFAS) levels of 26 ppb parts, an amount is that is 1.3 million times higher than EPA’s Lifetime Health Advisory Level for PFOS in drinking water, which is .02 ppb; and
    • Dangerously high levels of other PFAS, such as PFHpA and PFBS, which were found at 65 ppb and 30 ppb, respectively.

Bloom fertilizer is used in northwest Montgomery County where much of this area, including Poolesville, is dependent on a sole source aquifer for drinking water, irrigation of croplands and support of livestock. Poolesville recently closed two drinking water wells due to high levels of PFOA and PFOS. While the source of this contamination is not known, Upper Montgomery County’s sole source aquifer is particularly vulnerable to contamination from biosolids because of the area’s thin soils and fractured bedrock.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to the astronomically high levels of PFAS in these biosolids” said Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance. “Spreading these toxic chemicals on our farmlands and in our neighborhoods threatens the communities and livelihoods of those living in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve.”

“In Montgomery County, people are purchasing biosolids without knowing they contain extremely high levels of these persistent and harmful chemicals,” added Steven Findlay, President of the Sugarloaf Citizens Association. “We need to do everything we can to protect our food and water from PFAS contamination.”


Read the PEER letter to Montgomery County officials

See summary of test results

View the full lab report

Look at threat posed by PFAS in biosolid fertilizers

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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