Access to clean water is a fundamental human right, yet thousands of Mainers are still subjected to drinking water laced with arsenic. Maine, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report, has one of the highest arsenic levels in both bedrock and well water. Chronic, low-level exposure to arsenic is linked with cancer, lowered IQ in children and negative respiratory health, among other health consequences.

This tale is not a new one. Legislators and organizations in Maine have worked diligently over the past few years to ensure that affected Mainers have access to clean water.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed L.D. 454, An Act to Ensure Safe Drinking Water for Families in Maine, with bipartisan support. The bill, among other things, establishes a water fund to be used for outreach and education. The Legislature also passed L.D. 1263, Resolve: To Increase the Affordability of Safe Drinking Water for Maine Families. This bill provides $500,000 to be used for treatment systems for low-income families. The passage of these bills was led by various legislators and efforts by the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

Yet more needs to be done. While L.D. 1263 provides a significant starter fund for treatment systems, this fund is not sustainable in the long run, since treatment systems cost thousands of dollars. More funding is needed into the future to expand both treatment systems and testing for vulnerable families. Stronger policies are also needed, mandating that well water quality must follow the federal guideline of 10 parts per billion of arsenic. This standard currently does not apply to private wells.

We have come a long way toward ensuring that Maine families have access to clean drinking water, but there is much left to do. Everyone fundamentally deserves safe drinking water, and we cannot stop until we see that realized in Maine.

Samantha Schildroth

Hollis