AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A group of state legislators introduced a new bill Thursday morning in Augusta to reduce people's 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, and it will set up a fund for education and outreach programs which uses money from state water testing fees. They say 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,Kool Aid” 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 CDC, less than half of households with wells have tested their water for arsenic.
Wendy Brennan, a Mount Vernon resident, said she gave her daughter tap water for eight years, not knowing it was contaminated with arsenic.
"To think about giving my baby bottle Kool-Aid -- it still affects me. As a mother, you protect your babies, and I was giving them something that I thought was fine, and it wasn't," said Brennan.
Her older child has short-term memory deficit, and her younger child has Asperger's.
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 (D-Belfast). "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."