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Environment and Outdoors

Advocates Urge Environmental Protections On Anniversary of Clean Water Act’s Passage

Susan Sharon
Maine Public
Advocates in Lewiston on the banks of the Androscoggin River, once labeled the most polluted river in America.

Wednesday marks the 45th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the landmark law authored by U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, who was inspired by the Androscoggin and other rivers that were being treated as open sewers.

Along the Androscoggin there were more than half a dozen paper mills dumping untreated waste into the water. Toxic fumes peeled the paint off buildings, the stench was unbearable and fish and wildlife couldn’t survive.

Dick Anderson, a young fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in the 1960s, was assigned to paddle the river from New Hampshire to Brunswick as part of a survey.

“It was a revolting task,” he says. “And you cannot believe how revolting it was, those of you who are too young to remember what a mess it was.”

Anderson was among those standing at the edge of a much cleaner Androscoggin on Tuesday. It was made possible, he says, by legislation and by investments in pollution prevention.

“Let’s celebrate today and make the commitment to keep this river and all the other great rivers of Maine and the United States up to the highest state of purity,” he says.

Anderson and others are calling on U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King of Maine to continue to support strong federal clean water protections, which are under threat of being rolled back by the Trump administration.