New Year's resolution 1: Get your well tested!
"One in six household wells tested in Knox County had levels of arsenic that exceed national safe drinking water standards," according to the Environmental Health Strategy Center, based on studies by the Maine Center for Disease Control and other organizations.
We have known and reported on at intervals the issue of elevated arsenic levels in our area. The element is naturally occurring in our bedrock and it was present in insecticides widely used in the past.
The issue has returned to the public eye again because a bipartisan effort is under way by some Maine lawmakers to put forward a bill to promote increased awareness of this issue and increase the number of wells that are tested in the state.
We also learned that Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a similar effort in 2015 and DHHS denied the Maine CDC's request to reapply for a two-year federal grant of $300,000 to increase the state testing rate.
It would be easy to immediately criticize the governor's decisions, but the previous bill did include some features worth debating.
It would have required testing when the wells were constructed. It would also have created fees for testing wells to fund outreach and improve testing rates. Will it help or hurt to create fees on the testing? And do we want this mandated by the government?
It would also have established fees for installation of water treatment equipment to provide low-income residents with affordable water treatment. Those fees could also be counter-productive.
Failing to take advantage of federal dollars is questionable, but those dollars still come from taxpayers, and should taxpayers on public water have to pay for improvements to private wells?
The language of the new bill has not come out yet and may address these funding questions in a better way.
While we have raised a few questions, the Legislators promoting this bill are to be commended in their effort for several reasons. One is they are working together across party lines. We would like to see a lot more of that. Two, they are raising awareness of this important health issue.
If you have a well, don't wait for the government to solve your problems for you. Make sure to have it tested and properly treated for your peace of mind and for the health of your family.
New Year's resolution 2: Let's try more kindness in 2017
This edition has the first part in a new series on the expansion of OUT Maine to reach more places in the state.
We encourage you to read this series and consider it carefully. Eighty percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning, or LGBTQ, youth in Maine experience some form of harassment based on their gender expression.
Bullying can take place in school, in the workplace, at home, from parents and on social media, and harsh words hurt often just as much as physical abuse.
We know this is a community of kind people. We see it in our pages many times throughout the year as local residents reach out not only to friends, but sometimes to strangers, to help them in tough times.
We believe the lack of kindness when it comes to our LGBTQ community is driven by ignorance, by people not understanding how much what they say affects others and by them not taking time to consider how things feel from another person's point of view.
Every true faith calls on us to treat others as we would like to be treated, and we have seen in our reporting that the happiest people we ever meet are those who put others first. These are also the people who are remembered and celebrated most fondly.
If you make a resolution this New Year, we would ask that it be to treat others with kindness and never bully.
We know there are those with loud voices right now seeking to play on fears and exploit ignorance for political power, but in the Midcoast we have too strong a sense of community to be swept up in that frenzy.
From all of us at Courier Publications, Happy New Year!