One out of every eight Maine household wells contains too-high levels of arsenic, affecting an estimated 100,000–150,000 people. But in his July 23 letter (“Maine wells already well regulated”), Keith Taylor argues that because the majority of Maine’s household wells are safe, we don’t need further government action. I think most would disagree; with thousands of people already drinking unsafe water, Maine has a very real public health problem.

If anything, the July 13 article (“Federal study highlights corrosive potential of Maine groundwater”), he references should cause more concern and swifter responses. The U.S. Geological Surveyfound that Maine has among the most corrosive groundwater in the nation, increasing the risk of lead leaching into tap water. Consider that lead and arsenic irreversibly damage children’s developing brains, leading to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.

Taylor is probably right that most Maine well water is “good tasting,” but that’s misleading because arsenic and lead can’t be detected by taste, smell or color. Instead, residents must request a “comprehensive” water test every three to five years, which few people do.

Our state and federal government leaders are far from adequately solving that problem. Last year, Gov. Paul LePage prohibited the Maine CDC from receiving federal grant money meant to improve statewide testing rates through outreach and education programs. A month earlier, he vetoed bipartisan legislation to bolstered resources for the same purpose.

Taylor’s attitude is strange considering arsenic’s impact on his own community — 44 percent of the wells in Hallowell are arsenic-contaminated. Kennebec County schoolchildren were found to have lower IQ scores associated with arsenic in their water.

Contaminated well water is not just the homeowner’s problem. When our classrooms have more kids requiring special education, or when more people need treatment for skin and bladder cancer, it’s everybody’s problem.

Emma Halas-O’Connor

campaign manager

Environmental Health Strategy Center