Bill to set standard for water testing, fund outreach programs
A group of state legislators introduced a new bill Thursday morning in Augusta, Maine, to reduce residents' exposure to arsenic in their drinking water. The bill, "An Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Maine Families," will set a standard recommended test for the state's Health and Environmental Laboratory for testing water for arsenic. It also will set up a fund for education and outreach programs which uses money from state water testing fees. The bill would not cost the state any extra money.
Representative Karen Vachon, a Scarborough Republican, will be the lead sponsor. “Today, we’re taking the first step,” said Vachon. “Increasing the number of people who are testing their water and making sure people have the information they need to stay safe.”
Arsenic is linked to a number of types of cancer, as well as learning disabilities. A majority of the population uses residential wells for drinking and cooking, and one in eight wells are contaminated with too-high arsenic levels. According to the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than half of households with wells have tested their water for arsenic.
The bill would direct funds from state laboratory water tests to a new fund within the Maine CDC for the purpose of outreach and education activities. The bill would also ensure tenants living on well water would obtain water testing results from their landlords.
The bill is likely to remain the same as 2015 legislation, LD 1162, that fell two votes short of overriding a Governor’s veto.
"No parent should have to worry about the safety of the water their child drinks—not in 2016 and not in Maine," said Democratic House Majority Leader Erin Herbig. "This bill will target desperately needed new resources to raise awareness of the dangers of arsenic and help us reach more people in rural Maine so that they have the information they need to keep their water safe."