Maine Public

Julia Bayly / BDN

For the third year in a row, most of Maine is abnormally dry.

The Maine Emergency Officials says Washington County is the one exception, but that may soon change.

National Weather Service Hydrologist Tom Hawley, in Gray, says it appears that Maine will start to see more rainfall over the next four weeks or so.

“We're hoping that this forecast for above normal precipitation over the next four weeks will verify, and help us to slowly get out of this very dry period.”

Workforce expansion, workforce development and workforce retention continue to pose major hurdles for Maine employers, according to a new report from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Development Foundation and Educate Maine.

The three development groups said Thursday that Maine's quality of life, the work ethic of its residents and the state’s abundant natural resources continue to attract new businesses.

In his weekly radio address, Gov. Paul LePage said that he will call a special session this summer to reform Maine's child protection system, following the abuse deaths of two girls last winter.

Lawmakers have been asking LePage for a copy of his proposed bill as soon as possible, but the Governor said they'll have to wait until they finish current work.

Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

Independent Sen. Angus King said that he is "genuinely puzzled" by what he describes as the Trump Administration's continuing efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

“Genuinely puzzled about what appears to be an obsession or a mania with removing health insurance from people,” King said. “With keeping people from having health insurance. I just don't get it.”

Speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, King said having access to healthcare is a fundamental right.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

They're big, they're wide — and they’re definitely not your grandfather’s all terrain vehicles. 

Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

Portland’s East End beach and trail closed Thursday after about a million gallons of partially treated sewage spilled out of a Maine wastewater treatment plant and into Casco bay.

Scott Firman with the Portland Water District says the sewage overflowed when valves that should have been reopened after maintanence were inadvertently left closed.

"When the flows picked up this morning because of the rain, the water had nowhere to go because of those two valves, and that's what resulted in that observed overflow," Firman says.

Firman says the wastewater was far enough along in the treatment process that it was about a half hour from being released into the bay. However, there are still concerns about possible elevated levels of bacteria. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued a statement that said staff from the Health Beaches Program took water samples Thursday morning, which are currently being analyzed.

A spokesperson told the AP that it was the first time the plant had experienced an overflow of this kind. In a Facebook post, the Portland Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department called it "a complete washout." 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning about salmonella connected to chickens and ducks in backyard flocks across the country.

The CDC reports that as of July 13 there have been 212 cases of salmonella reported, including one in Maine. Nationally, 34 people have been hospitalized, and no one has died.

State epidemiologist Dr. Siiri Bennet says it is important to wash your hands after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live or roam.

The U.S. Agriculture department says $12 billion is needed to help farmers who were hurt by the Trump Administration's tariff wars with China, Mexico and Canada.

Maine's Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb says some of that relief will likely make it to Maine dairy, potato and blueberry farmers. He says some of the administration's maneuvering has been aimed at lowering the 27 percent Chinese tariff already leveled at Maine blueberry exports – a favorite for people in China.

AP Photo

Two Republican state House candidates pleaded with the Maine Ethics Commission Wednesday to come up with a plan to fix a severe imbalance in the distribution of public campaign funds.

Portland Press Herald

Maine's media magnate can put two more notches on his belt, with the purchase of the Ellsworth American and the Mt. Desert Islander newspapers.

These additions will bring Reade Brower's local news stable to a total of 25 Maine newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald.

Alan Baker, the 88-year-old owner of the two Hancock County weeklies, says multiple news presses in multiple communities can't stay viable in the age of internet advertising and publishing.

"So you will continue to see, I believe, intelligent consolidation,” he says.

Patty Wight / Maine Public

  

An eight-year-old boy from Oakland was found dead in his home Tuesday night died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to Maine State Police.

Parker Stevens was handling his father's 12-gauge shotgun inside a closet of his parents’ second floor bedroom when the gun fired. His mother was downstairs with three younger children and did not hear the shot. She reportedly found her son when she went to look for him around 6 p.m.

The head of Maine's Department of Public Safety says the agency is taking steps to address claims that a dispatch center in Augusta is significantly understaffed.

Commissioner John Morris says that recruiting qualified and skilled applicants who pass state-lead background checks and polygraph tests can be difficult, but the agency is working to address the issue.

"We're recruiting everywhere,” he says. “Job fairs, veteran's fairs, web, Facebook and the career centers for the state of Maine. So we're moving forward."

The two unions representing Consolidated Communications workers in Northern New England say their membership has voted "overwhelmingly" to authorize a strike if necessary.

Don Trementozzi with Communications Workers of America Local 1400, says negotiations have been contentious since they began in April, but he says a strike is in no one's best interest, and that both CWA and IBEW are hoping an agreement can be reached "You know a strike is not in the best interest of either party, you know, you lose customers, it costs a lot of money, people lose income," he says

Robert F. Bukaty / AP Photo

A superior court judge said that he will soon rule on whether Republican Gov. Paul LePage can single-handedly withhold more than $1 million in public campaign funds from more than 100 legislative candidates and one candidate who is running for governor.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that parents avoid using plastic food containers because of concerns that chemicals found in food colorings, preservatives and packaging may harm children's health.

In a policy statement issued Monday, the physicians' group said a growing body of evidence suggests that some chemicals currently allowed in food and its packaging can interfere with a child's hormones, growth and development.

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