When organic is toxic: How a composting facility likely spread massive amounts of ‘forever chemicals’ across one town in Massachusetts – The Boston Globe


— Nearly a decade ago, Sue and Tom Ryan moved into a custom-built, four-bedroom house with a pool, views of Mount Wachusett, and more than 3 acres to keep horses, raise chickens, and grow a well-tended garden.


hopes of living more sustainably and healthily, eating food they grew themselves, the couple cleared much of their land and spread loads of “top-shelf loam” from a company called Mass Natural, an organic composting business across the street in this rural town in Central Massachusetts.

But their health got worse and this spring, they learned of a potential reason why: The water they were drinking and cooking with contained massive amounts of toxic chemicals, known as PFAS — more than 50 times what state regulators consider safe to drink.

They won’t eat from their garden, swim in the pool, or drink their water, even though it now flowsthrough an expensive filtration system. “I’m severely traumatized by this,” said Ryan, who has been crushing the eggs from their chickens to ensure no one eats them. “I believe the PFAS has compromised my immune system.”

The per- and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, known as “forever chemicals” because they never fully break down in the environment, most likely came from a place the Ryans and other residents never thought could be the source of such harmful pollution: a sustainability-minded, family-run composting operation.Its marketing materials describe its business as “partnering with the planet,”a “model site for state regulators” that’s working to combat climate change.

Related: Mayor Wu announces new citywide composting program


officials say the PFAS likely spread through ground water from the 240-acre composting facility — the first of its kind in Massachusetts, and now the state’s largest — which has been accepting tens of thousands of tons of organic waste every year and selling it as loam, potting soil, and mulch over more than three decades. It could also be from the loam they spread on their property.

…(read more).


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