Landmark Legislation: Maine’s Bill to Ensure Safe Drinking Water
LD 454 Ensures Safe Drinking Water for All Maine Families
In a bipartisan effort to secure safer drinking water for all households, Maine’s legislature passed Representative Karen Vachon’s bill, LD 454, last year. More than half of Maine residents access drinking water from private wells, but due to a lack of awareness, the high cost of testing, and the fact that private wells are exempt from laws governing safe drinking water, only half of these households have tested for contaminants like arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen that is known to slow child development and is a prevalent contaminant in Maine.
LD 454 plays a vital role in filling the gap in safe drinking water laws by increasing private well testing and acts as a strong model of ways state laws can enhance public health. Some of the bill’s main components include requiring the state’s health department to establish a set of contaminants for which all private wells must be tested for and develop educational outreach on the health impacts and importance of testing drinking water. The bill also established the Private Well Safe Drinking Water Fund which primarily helps fund and improve the rate of testing in addition to supporting educational outreach. Funding preference goes towards community-based programs that support underserved and at-risk households.
This landmark legislation is one of the newest additions to NCEL and the USC Schwarzenegger Institute’s Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook, a one-stop-shop for some of the nation’s strongest state environmental laws.