New bill aims to lower arsenic levels in Maine drinking water

AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - A new bill aimed at lowering arsenic levels in private and public drinking water was discussed in Augusta Monday.

One of the measures in a new bill introduced to the Health and Human Services Committee would provide water testing kits for arsenic in private wells.

"I was doing some research on another piece of legislature on toxins, and I learned through that research that over 50-percent of our homeowners in Maine have wells, private wells. I learned that there's a real barrier for folks to get their wells tested, and I learned that there are high levels of arsenic in our groundwater," said Representative Lori Gramlich.

Representative Gramlich claims 1 in 6 wells has unsafe drinking water.

The bill also requires the state to adopt a lower maximum for arsenic in public and private drinking water.

The recommendation has been set at 10 parts per billion, but conversations at Monday's public hearing alluded to a desire to set that even lower.

While living in Franklin about 10 years ago, Kelsey George and her partner suffered after a couple of years of drinking unsafe well water.

They say it was something their landlord did not disclose, and under current laws, didn't have to.

"I woke up every morning with headaches, nausea, I lost at the point of severity, two years after living there I lost 20 pounds," said George.

Although most can agree on the importance of clean drinking water, some issues were raised about how this might affect facilities around the state if arsenic levels had to be lowered for public drinking water.

"Arsenic is a contaminant that can be removed from water, and there are ample treatment options, but all of those cost money. We know of one water utility in a Maine facility that has arsenic above 5, and in order to lower that below 5, they would need to spend about $4 million dollars," said Roger Crouse, the General Manager of the Kenebec Water District.

According to lawmakers, state offered arsenic testing kits, at the least, are expected to pass this session.