Access to safe, clean water is a basic human right. We’re supposed to drink at least 8 glasses each day to stay healthy… but for some Maine families, every sip contains toxic chemicals like arsenic — linked to lowered IQ levels, and skin and bladder cancer.
Maine’s double risk
- Maine is situated on top of bedrock and soils that naturally produce toxic arsenic and other harmful chemicals that seep into our drinking water.
- Federal and state safe drinking water standards don’t apply to household wells, which roughly half of all Mainers rely on for drinking and cooking. In fact, in some regions, almost every household uses its own well.
Maine household well water: Under-tested, and often toxic
Less than half of household wells in Maine have been tested for toxic chemicals like arsenic, but it is estimated that one in eight wells have levels of arsenic and other toxic chemicals above federal and state-established safe thresholds for drinking.
These toxic contaminants pose serious health risks to Maine people. Scientific studies have linked arsenic to cancer of the skin, lung, and bladder, as well as harm to the developing brain, leading to lowered IQ levels. Pregnant women and children are even more vulnerable because exposure to contaminants like arsenic can disrupt the healthy development of their bodies.
The Maine CDC recommends testing for arsenic, as well other chemicals, every 3 – 5 years. Unfortunately, many families don’t realize how important it is to test and treat their private well water systems. For low-income families, the cost of treatment makes accessing safe drinking water even more difficult.
So what can we do?
SUPPORT LEGISLATION IN 2017 TO PROTECT CHILDREN AND FAMILIES FROM ARSENIC IN DRINKING WATER.
In 2015, proposed legislation called An Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for All Maine families nearly became law. The bill would have protected children’s health by improving testing and treatment of contaminants in private residential drinking water wells, which are otherwise exempt from state and federal safe drinking water laws.
The Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for All Maine Families would:
- Improve the rate of wells tested for arsenic, radon and other toxic chemicals. The Act will increase testing rates of private wells by requiring wells to be tested for arsenic whenever a property in Maine is sold and whenever a new well is drilled.
- Establish a Private Well Safe Drinking Water Fund to support Maine residents in testing private well water. Supported through testing and treatment fees from registered testing and treatment entities, this Fund will be used to launch and sustain education outreach efforts that will help to improve testing rates. Existing resources will also supplement these efforts.
- Expand access to well testing and treatment, modeled on Maine’s existing successful law to increase radon testing. The Private Well Safe Drinking Water Fund will also help to assist families with children in poverty to access water treatment options to help reduce the level of contaminants.