On February 5th, Mano en Mano collaborated with the Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC) to bring free water testing to community members in Milbridge and the surrounding towns. Sergio Cahueque, an organizer based in the EHSC Portland office, gave a presentation about the importance of testing well water in Washington County due to a high concentration of arsenic in the area. Arsenic occurs naturally in Maine as a result of geological formation and composition. Although it is naturally occurring, arsenic is a poison and human exposure to this chemical has been linked to increased risk of skin, lung, and bladder cancer. It has also been found to impact brain development in children.
The Maine Center for Disease Control lists Columbia and Columbia Falls as two of the top 10 towns in the state with the highest concentration of arsenic in its wells. Throughout Washington County, 1 in 6 wells are contaminated with arsenic levels that exceed the federal health levels. Despite these high levels of arsenic concentration, only 25% of people in Washington County test their well water. Knowing these statistics, we found it imperative to encourage the families we work with to test their well water, and with support from EHSC, we were able to offer this service free of charge.
In 2017, Maine passed legislation to protect families from the negative health impacts of arsenic in wells by allocating funds for water filtration systems for low-income families. Low-income families can also qualify for free water testing at MaineHousing.org. Maine residents can learn more about well water safety and testing from the Division of Environmental Health. It’s recommended that wells are tested every five years for arsenic contamination.