Senator Carson, Representative Tucker, and members of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee:
My name is Nick Bennett, and I am the staff scientist for the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM). NRCM is Maine’s largest environmental advocacy group with more than 20,000 members and supporters. I am testifying in support of LD 543. This bill would make it a requirement for someone purchasing a home to have a septic inspection anywhere in Maine. Right now, this is a requirement only in shoreline areas of the coast.
Inspecting septic systems periodically makes sense. I certainly did this when I purchased my house. It was very inexpensive and gave me peace of mind that I would not have the large expense of putting in a new tank or leach field right after making the biggest purchase I have ever made.
It also makes sense to protect fresh surface water and groundwater from malfunctioning septic systems just as it does coastal waters. Malfunctioning septic systems can be a source of waterborne illness for people swimming in lakes or streams. Water quality also suffers from discharges of nutrients and organic waste from malfunctioning septic system. This can cause real harm to lakes, which have low rates of flushing, and to small or slow-moving streams.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, lakes generate about $3.5 billion per year for Maine’s economy and provide approximately 52,000 jobs. Small streams that would be vulnerable to septic tank pollution are an important resource, too. They provide much of the habitat for brook trout in Maine. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, total fishing expenditures in Maine were $371 million in 2011, the latest year for which data are available. A big chunk of that economic impact is brook trout fishing. As go Maine’s small streams, so go our brook trout.
In closing, Maine should protect its freshwater resources from septic pollution just as it protects its saltwater resources: by requiring an inspection of septic systems when someone purchases a house in freshwater shoreland zones.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify.