Opinion

Learning Disabilities Association of Maine Opposes LD 820

Late in 2012, Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake introduced a bill directing the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to rewrite mining regulations to make it easier to mine metals in Maine. Specifically, JD Irving wanted to mine Bald Mountain in Aroostook. The DEP rewrote the regulations and in 2013 an overwhelming majority of Maine testifiers opposed the relaxing of the rules and the Legislature rejected them. The DEP submitted the same rules in 2015 with the same outcome.

The mining rules are being considered by the Legislature again this year. LD 820 would allow contamination of groundwater with toxins that are waste product from mining operations. The toxins released by a mining operation at Bald Mountain would include arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Pre and postnatal exposure to any or all of these is linked with learning disabilities.

The Learning Disabilities Association of Maine is a statewide, non-profit organization of individuals with specific learning and attention disabilities, and the families and professionals who support them. LDA-ME provides education and support to families of children with learning disabilities and adults with learning disabilities. We strive to minimize the negative impacts of learning disabilities. Prevention is a key to that goal.

Arsenic exposure is linked to lower IQ scores, lower cognitive function, and stronger risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children exposed to cadmium are at higher risk of learning disabilities. According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, children born to women who are exposed to mercury during pregnancy are at higher risk for a several disabilities including mental retardation, deafness, and blindness. The many negative impacts from lead exposure include lower IQ, ADHD, social and conduct disorders, and drug abuse. There is no safe level of lead exposure.

People with learning disabilities are more likely to drop out of high school, less likely to attend post-secondary education, have higher unemployment rates, and earn less than non-learning disabled people. The percentage of Maine students identified as learning disabled and receiving special education services is higher than the national average. Increased rates of learning disabilities will cause further strain on already stretched school budgets. The best way to limit negative effects is to prevent learning disabilities from happening. The best way to prevent learning disability is to limit exposure to environmental causes.

Groundwater contamination is very hard to control. In September of 2016, NRCM staff scientist, Nick Bennett, stated, “The idea that you can allow that and keep it on site is a very dangerous idea. In Maine, groundwater connects to surface water very easily.” Testimony by University of Maine hydrologists backs up Bennett’s statement. By allowing groundwater contamination, LD 820 would expose more women and children to the toxins that increase learning disabilities in children.

Most of the discussion about mining impacts for the past five years has been on the economic and environmental costs. There has not been much discussion about the human costs. LD 820 provides financial assurance to the businesses and properties that would be harmed from mining contamination. It provides no such considerations of the human harms. It is time to consider them and to do the right thing for future generations of Mainers. We should not be allowing mining companies to contaminate Maine’s water with toxins that put their intellectual abilities at risk.

There are no examples of metallic mineral mining that does not contaminate the groundwater within and surrounding the mining area. LD 820 should be rejected by the Legislature. LD 160 would ban metallic mineral mining in Maine. That is the best way forward unless or until there is a way to eliminate the certainty of groundwater contamination that accompanies all mining operations.

Shelly Mountain is the secretary of the LDA-ME board of directors.

Get the Rest of the Story

Thank you for reading your 4 free articles this month. To continue reading, and support local, rural journalism, please subscribe.