Polluters found dumping into Maine waterways

Sunrise over Acadia National Park. Maine relys on tourism brought to the state by it's natural beauty. The state can not afford polluters. Photo by Morgan Rogers.

 

By Ramona du Houx

Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Maine’s waterways 22 times over 21 months, according to a new report by Environment Maine Research & Policy Center. These facilities and others around the country rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Maine Research & Policy Center’s Troubled Waters report comes as the Trump administration tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.

“All Maine rivers and streams should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Courtney Lorey with Environment Maine. “But industrial polluters are still dumping pollution that threatens our health and environment, and no one is holding them accountable.”

In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Maine Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment in Maine and across the country. More than 40 percent of Maine’s major industrial facilities exceeded their Clean Water Act permits during this time period.     

For example, the report shows that Woodland Pulp Mill in Washington County poured pollutants into the St. Croix River in excess of permit limits, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ICIS database. The Woodland Pulp Mill exceeded Clean Water Act permit  limits for both zinc and copper, which can be harmful to human health. On one occasion, the mill exceeded its copper limit by 135 percent.

Potland Head light is visited by over 2 million people every year. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The report also shows that polluters rarely face penalties, and recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water. Unfortunately, decision makers in Washington could soon make the pattern of pollution worse.  

“With polluters dumping into Maine waters, the last thing we need are weaker clean water protections and an EPA budget that takes environmental cops off the beat,” concluded Lorey.