Senator Rosen, Representative Warren, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, my name is Ryan Parker and I am the Environmental Policy Outreach Coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in support of LD 252.
This problem came to light when a Maine lobsterman contacted his state representative. “What,” he asked, “can I do with all of the expired flares in my barn?”
It would be bad enough if the answer was, “Nothing.” But the reality is worse than that. It turns out the answer to the question of what we can do with expired marine flares is, there is no answer.
When Representative McCreight began looking into this issue for her constituent, she contacted several people and groups, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine. When I began researching the issue I quickly found myself in an endless spiral of phone calls.
Marine flares, which by federal law expire 42 months from the date of manufacture, cannot be discarded in household trash because they are classified as explosives and because they contain toxic chemicals which are a danger to humans, ground water and our larger environment. Manufacturers do a good job making people aware of this but recommend people contact a local law enforcement agency to learn what to do with expired flares. Many local fire departments, including those in communities proximate to Maine’s coastal waters, do not have the experience or expertise to deal with such questions, let alone to act as the actual point of disposal.
Through my research I discovered that ignorance about proper disposal of these materials is a widespread problem. Additionally, I found that, more often than not, the answer provided by small, municipal, often volunteer, fire departments is, “I don’t know.” In some cases the department advises the boater to contact the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard advises contacting your local fire station.
It has been my experience that the vast majority of people, especially Maine people, want to do the right thing, particularly when it involves protecting Maine’s environment. It has also been my experience that it is never wise to make doing the right thing difficult or frustrating.
LD 252 provides a well thought, common sense approach to make the right thing to do, the easy thing to do. Local fire departments are likely the best place for these materials to be collected. Everyone knows where their fire department is and in Maine, many of us know our local firefighters personally. But local fire departments need to be given the knowledge and the tools to help boaters safely dispose of these materials. A partnership with state public safety agencies will provide that guidance and assistance. The education components of this bill are equally as important as the actual collection mechanisms. We’ve been living with an unfeasible system for so long, it will take some effort to tell the public Maine has a viable disposal system. NRCM would like to thank Representative McCreight for working with stakeholders to come up with this sensible solution and thank her and her cosponsors for introducing this legislation for the Committee to consider.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments. I would be glad to answer any questions you may have.