There is no dispute that contaminants like lead and arsenic, often found in private water supplies, can cause serious health problems. But Maine lawmakers are struggling with how best to address the problem of unsafe drinking water in private wells, which are not tested as frequently or as comprehensively as public water supplies.

Many Mainers get their water from their own wells, and studies have shown many of those private wells have unsafe levels of lead and arsenic and other contaminants. In some parts of the state as many as half of them are well above recommended levels.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A bipartisan group of legislators has introduced a measure that aims to bolster the rate of testing for arsenic in the tens of thousands of private wells across the state.

Wendy Brennan of Mt. Vernon spoke in support of the legislation at a State House news conference Thursday.  Brennan said her family has suffered from health issues caused by drinking water with high arsenic levels.

Not enough Maine households are testing for arsenic, according to the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

The most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control finds that less than half of the state’s households that rely on well water test for arsenic. Health advocates say the state needs to do more to educate private well owners and achieve a statewide goal of 65 percent testing by 2020.

Rui Costa
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Residents of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont have a 20 percent higher risk for bladder cancer than the rest of the U.S.

A.J. Higgins / MPBN

AUGUSTA, Maine — About half of all Mainers rely on private wells for water. But the underlying bedrock produces toxic chemicals such as arsenic at levels deemed unsafe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee is considering a bill that would increase testing of private wells and access to filtration systems for households with contaminated water. But how the bill would be funded is generating opposition.