EPA: PFAS response won’t imperil sludge spreading on farms

By Marc Heller | 04/15/2024 01:29 PM EDT

EPA’s agriculture adviser said the agency is conducting a risk analysis for “forever” chemicals on farms, including from the biosolids farmers spread as fertilizer.

farmworkers pick sweet corn in a field

Migrant farmworkers pick sweet corn in a field July 7, 2023, at a farm in Waverly, Ohio. Joshua A. Bickel/AP

EPA isn’t looking to keep farmers from spreading sludge as fertilizer as regulators clamp down on “forever” chemicals that work their way into the material, the agency’s top agriculture official said Monday.

“It is an important disposal method,” EPA agriculture adviser Rod Snyder told agriculture journalists at a conference. “We’re not suggesting that needs to stop.”

Snyder, who also leads a new EPA office for agriculture and rural affairs, said officials expect to complete an agricultural risk assessment for the chemicals, called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, later this fall. Researchers link PFAS-contaminated biosolid fertilizer to the chemicals’ appearance in soil, livestock and crops.


That assessment, to be open for public comment, will lead to the first scientific standards for PFAS in agriculture and follow last week’s announcement of standards for drinking water.