AUGUSTA — Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection has moved forward to implement rules of the recently passed ban on certain products containing the chemical bisphenol-A, according to the group that had criticized the DEP for a lack of progress.

The DEP announced recently that it had issued letters to manufacturers of reusable food and beverage containers that may contain BPA, informing them they had missed the July 5 deadline for telling the department how they plan to phase out sales of such products in Maine. A ban on those products is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

“If they in fact have products that meet that standard, then we want them to contact our office because we would like to help them become compliant,” said Kerri Malinowski, coordinator for the DEP’s Safer Chemicals Program.

“The whole idea behind the letter is that there may have been some folks in the regulated community who were not aware of the pending prohibition in January,” she said.

Amanda Sears, spokeswoman for the Environmental Health Strategy Center, said Wednesday that her organization was pleased to see the department take action, even if it is belated.

“We’re pretty happy about the fact that we nudged them in this way,” she said. “What they told us (in meetings) was that they would send out these letters and then actively follow up with these companies.”

The center previously accused the DEP of failing to effectively enforce the BPA deadlines because Gov. Paul LePage had expressed opposition to the ban. Sears admitted that the group had no proof that that was the case.

“We might have opinions about why certain things move forward versus others but … we don’t actually have any specific information about it,” Sears said. “In my opinion, we’ll need to continue to play that role to keep this a priority.”

Malinowski said the DEP is committed to working with manufacturers to help them comply with Maine’s regulations.

“We understand that this prohibition may be burdensome to some, but … we’re dedicated to getting together with them to meet our goal of protecting the public and environmental health,” she said. “We don’t want to throw something at them that is not achievable.”

LePage created national headlines and controversy when he joked in February that, at worst, BPA exposure caused women to grow “little beards” and expressed skepticism of science linking BPA, a synthetic hormone, to health problems in children.

The Legislature approved a ban on the chemical in April, and it became law without the governor’s signature.

Rebekah Metzler — 620-7016

[email protected]

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