PORTLAND –Maine’s leading environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, launched a summer door-to-door educational campaign as part of statewide efforts to inform the public about mercury pollution in Maine.
“Mercury pollution from power plants is an environmental issue that hits Maine hard,” said Jon Hinck, Toxics Project Director for NRCM. “For Maine to be a clean and healthy place in which to live, work and raise a family, mercury pollution needs urgent attention.”
NRCM’s outreach team – dubbed “Project Mercury” – will be going door-to-door, not soliciting for donations, but distributing educational materials, in Portland, Brunswick, South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Yarmouth during August and September.
The majority of Maine’s mercury pollution comes from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. The mercury follows prevailing winds to Maine where it rains down and collects in streams, lakes and rivers. It then accumulates in fish. Eating mercury-contaminated fish can cause serious health problems, especially for children and wildlife.
The Maine Bureau of Health advises pregnant women, women who may become pregnant and children under 8, to avoid nearly all fish caught in Maine’s inland waters because of mercury contamination, and 30 percent of Maine’s loons are at risk of reproductive impairment from high methyl-mercury levels. “This is not the way life should be,” said Hinck.
The campaign is designed to share facts about mercury contamination in Maine’s air, water and wildlife, and the failure of the federal government to adequately address the problem. “We have a great team of committed, young field organizers and volunteers taking this important and pressing message to Maine neighborhoods,” said Hinck.
NRCM has produced specially-designed brochures and postcards as part of its effort to educate the public and provide Mainers with an easy way to send their comments to EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. The canvassers are not selling anything or soliciting donations, just offering information and asking for signatures on postcards.
“There are typically two kinds of people who come to your door – people that want your money and politicians,” said Jason Toothaker, a Field Organizer with the outreach team. “We’re doing neither. We are raising awareness on an issue of concern to all Mainers.”
For some of the canvassers, the mercury message is deeply personal. “My mom was poisoned by mercury,” said Hillary Opperman of Portland. “I am excited to be working on a campaign to keep this toxin out of our environment.”