Maine CDC Press Release

May 3, 2004

Maine Celebrates National Drinking Water Week

Contact:   Nancy Beardsley, Director
  Drinking Water Program
  Department of Human Services
  Tel: (207) 287-5674
  TTY: (207) 287-2070
  Cell: (207) 592-9918

Augusta – In conjunction with National Drinking Water Week, the Department of Human Services announced today that the National Theatre for Children will be in Maine this week to give performances about water safety for grade school aged students throughout the state. The performances will be hosted jointly by DHS’s Drinking Water Program and by seven different water districts in communities that are served by public water systems.

DHS Commissioner John R. Nicholas recognized National Drinking Water Week by noting that one of the great public health achievements of the last century has been the increased safety of the nation’s drinking water supplies. “Safe drinking water is essential to maintaining good human health,” said Commissioner Nicholas, “and we in Maine are fortunate to have access to excellent drinking water. We may take this for granted, but it is the direct result of our efforts to protect the lakes, rivers and underground aquifers which are the sources of that water.”

The performances by the National Theatre for Children will be hosted by the Biddeford & Saco Water Company on May 3rd, the Jackman Utility District on May 4th, the Bingham Water District on May 5th, the Cornish Water District on May 6th and the South Berwick Water District and Jay Village Water District/Livermore Falls Water District on May 7th.

The Drinking Water Program’s primary responsibility is to insure that public water systems provide safe drinking water. The program gives technical assistance to public water systems, works with them to protect source water areas and provides grants or loans funds for infrastructure improvements. Since 1997, the Drinking Water Program has funded over $47 million in water system improvements in Maine.

Nancy Beardsley, Director of the Drinking Water Program, said that the timing of National Drinking Water Week is all the more significant given the past success Maine has had in preserving the quality of its water sources. “Safe drinking water is not an accident,” Beardsley warned “and protecting it means making the resources available to municipalities that would like to improve their water systems.”

A public water system is any water system that provides drinking water to 25 people for more than 60 days of the year. Maine has approximately 2,200 such systems ranging from large municipal water districts to mobile home parks, apartment buildings and seasonal lobster shacks. They provide drinking water to over half of Maine’s population.

Although private wells, where 40% of the population gets their drinking water, are not regulated, the Drinking Water Program plays a significant role in insuring the quality of these sources of water as well. Program staff, including engineers, geologists and chemists, assist many private well owners with questions regarding their drinking water quality, testing and treatment. In addition, the Drinking Water Program plays an essential role in the State’s public health network, particularly in the case of waterborne disease outbreaks. It also assists in safeguarding water quality through the eating and lodging program since many of the State’s hotels and restaurants are also public water suppliers.

More information is available about the Drinking Water Program over the Internet at http://www.medwp.com or by calling (207) 287-2070.