We are lucky to live in a state so beautifully crisscrossed by pristine, fresh waterways. From the Allagash up north, to the Penobscot in the middle, to the Saco in the south—fresh, clean water is a luxury to which we Mainers have become accustomed. I am personally grateful for the federal and state laws, along with organizations like the Natural Resources Council of Maine, that protect our rivers, streams, lakes, and waterways and understand the importance of ensuring those laws are continually strengthened. Thankfully, protecting clean water is a topic that appears to transcend party affiliation in the Maine Legislature.
A great example of this was the recent bipartisan support for a bill in the Legislature, LD 1964, to upgrade the water quality of more than 800 miles of rivers, streams, and tributaries across the state. Both houses of the Maine Legislature strongly endorsed the bill. One section of the bill will upgrade the water quality standard from class C to B for a more than 14-mile stretch of the Androscoggin River from Lisbon Falls to Merrymeeting Bay.
When I think back to my childhood, I am overwhelmed by memories of spending time on the Androscoggin and Swift Rivers in Rumford and Mexico. Jumping off the glistening rocks that stood tall above Coos Canyon, and swimming in and out of the underwater caves that lined swimming holes like Three Pools. My friends and I were oblivious to the countless hours, days, months, and years lawmakers, organizations, and everyday Mainers dedicated to ensuring those very swimming holes were kept clean. What a legacy they have left, and it’s on every Mainer, me included, to ensure that legacy lives on in perpetuity.
People may think that the water quality in a town like Rumford is equal to the odor stemming from the paper mill. In the decades prior to 1972, they would have been wrong–it was much worse. However, that odor was one of many motivating factors that encouraged Maine U.S. Senator Edmund Muskie, who grew up in Rumford, to take action and author one of the nation’s most important environmental laws–the Clean Water Act–which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It’s hard to find another piece of environmental regulation that has done more to protect Maine’s, and the nation’s, water than the Clean Water Act. It is a remarkable piece of legislation that is equally consequential to Maine’s economy as it is to the health and wellbeing of all Mainers.
Thankfully, the section of the Androscoggin River around the Rumford paper mill has rebounded dramatically in the 50 years since the Clean Water Act was passed. I can only hope that our lawmakers continue to bolster their support for clean water in the future.
—by Byron Glaus, NRCM Rising Leadership Team