With the legislature finally adjourned for the season, let’s take a look back on how our Senators and Representatives performed when it comes to a major public health threat facing our state: arsenic and other toxic chemicals poisoning our drinking water. Even though LD 1162, An Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water, came just four votes short of overriding the Governor’s veto, we have a lot to be proud of. This bill passed with strong bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate, and garnered business support and legislative champions from both sides of the aisle.
To use a bit of a cheesy metaphor: let’s raise a glass of clean, safe drinking water to those legislators who stood up for protecting families from arsenic.
And, let’s raise an eyebrow at legislators who “poisoned the well” so to speak by following the Governor’s politics instead of doing what’s best for Maine families.
LD 1162 would have provided at least $75,000 annually to our state to allow more outreach and education around the need to test private well water for arsenic and other toxic chemicals. We couldn’t be more in need of raising awareness: just 45% of Maine residents with private wells are testing their water for arsenic, even though arsenic contaminates one in ten wells in our state, and some hot-spot areas have 40 to 50% of their wells contaminated with arsenic, which contributes to learning disabilities and cancer. Adding urgency to the situation is the recent news that the Department of Health and Human Services has rejected an opportunity to reapply for a federal grant that was sustaining the state’s current efforts to increase testing rates.
So which legislators earned a “raised glass”, and who deserves a “raised eyebrow?”
First, let’s raise a whole pitcher of clean safe water to our legislator champions who went above and beyond to help advance this cause. MANY THANKS TO…
Representative Drew Gattine (D-Westbrook), Representative Gary Hilliard (R-Belgrade), Representative Karen Vachon (R-Scarborough), Representative Christine Burstein (D-Lincolnville), Senator Chris Johnson (D-Somerville), Senator Anne Haskell (D-Portland), Senator Amy Volk (R-Scarborough)
Now we invite you to either “raise a glass” to thank your legislator for their support, or “raise an eyebrow” to hold your legislator accountable, by following these quick steps:
1. To find out who your legislators are, click here. Already know? Proceed to step 2.
3. Find out how your Senator voted by checking this of Senators who voted in FAVOR of the bill: Alfond, Baker, Breen, Davis, Diamond, Dill, Dutremble, Gerzofsky, Gratwick, Haskell, Hill, Johnson, Katz, Langley, Libby, McCormick, Millett, Miramant, Patrick, Valentino, Volk, and Whittemore
4. If your REPRESENTATIVE voted YES to safe drinking water legislation, CLICK HERE TO SAY THANK YOU.
Or, if your REPRESENTATIVE voted NO to safe drinking water legislation, CLICK HERE TO EXPRESS DISAPPOINTMENT
Finally, we’re aiming our biggest eyebrow-raising at Governor LePage and top officials at DHHS for throwing away opportunities to fund outreach and education that could get more people testing their drinking water. Between Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1162 and DHHS Commissioner Mayhew’s refusal of federal funds, it seems as though this Administration is satisfied to let rural Maine families drink arsenic. Six super-champion legislators wrote a letter to DHHS last week demanding an action plan to continue safe drinking water outreach by August 10th. We’ll keep you posted on whether the Administration has anything to say in response.
Our acknowledgement of these votes helps legislators know that this problem certainly hasn’t gone away, and we’ll keep working hard until we know that Mainers are truly protected. Thanks to your messages and phone calls this legislative season, we’ve laid a strong foundation to win a strong safe drinking water program next time around.