Safe water advocate

Searsport mom to be honored

Nov 23, 2017

Portland — A Searsport mother is one of 11 individuals who will receive environmental health leadership awards Dec. 1 from an organization working to make sure all families have access to safe and affordable food, drinking water, and products.

The Environmental Health Strategy Center will present the awards at its 2017 Celebration for Our Healthy Future in Portland.

Joanie Hill of Searsport will receive a Grassroots Leadership Award for her advocacy for safe drinking water on behalf of fellow parents and kids living in rural Maine.

According to an email message to The Republican Journal from Nika Beauchamp of Environmental Health Strategy Center, Hill is a mother who lives with her family in the Searsport farmhouse her parents built.

“When a doctor treating Joanie told her to test her family’s well water, she learned there was arsenic in it at more than 30 times the federal safety limit,” Beauchamp wrote.

According to a news release posted on the Environmental Health Strategy Center's website, Hill and her family moved to Searsport to live in the farmhouse where she grew up, and she dreamed her children would care for and inherit the small farm. But then her children’s hair stopped growing, Hill felt constantly ill, and farm animals started to die.

A doctor advised her to test her well water for arsenic, and she described the results in testimony last April supporting LD 1263, “An Act to Ensure Affordable Safe Water for Families”:

"We have arsenic levels over 30 times the safety threshold, and right now there is no funding available for water treatment for my family. I wonder if we will ever have a working farm, for my boys to live on, the way it was planned. Is arsenic killing my dreams?"

Beauchamp wrote, “Her experience motivated her to become a vocal leader for change, speaking out to protect Maine families like her own. Thanks in large part to Joanie's efforts, two new laws, LD 454 and LD 1263, that will expand well water testing and treatment were passed by override of gubernatorial vetoes this summer.”

Other environmental award recipients are:

Michael Herz, PhD, of Damariscotta, a scientist, activist and philanthropist, is receiving the Frank Hatch Environmental Health Leadership Award for his decades of achievement in environmental advocacy and his leadership and philanthropic support of environmental health organizations nationwide.

Sydney Sewall, MD, MPH, of Hallowell is receiving the Bettie Kettell Award for Medical-Professional Leadership for his work to protect children’s health by advocating for Maine’s first-in-the-nation ban of toxic flame retardants in upholstered furniture.

Gail Carlson, PhD, of Waterville is receiving a Science Champion Award, for exemplifying what it means to put science into action through her work informing campaigns in Maine for safe drinking water and a ban on toxic flame retardants.

Wendy Brennan of Mt. Vernon, and Hill, are receiving Grassroots Leadership Awards for their advocacy for safe drinking water.

Linda Baker of Topsham and Therese Flaherty of Yarmouth are receiving Grassroots Leadership Awards for their advocacy for a ban on toxic flame retardants, on behalf of firefighters' families like theirs.

Rep. Walter A. Kumiega III, D-Deer Isle; Rep. Jeff Pierce, R-Dresden; and Rep. Ralph Tucker, D-Brunswick, are receiving Legislative Leadership Awards for their leadership in phasing out toxic flame retardants.

Sen. Joyce A. Maker, R-Washington, is receiving a Legislative Leadership Award for her leadership in expanding well-water treatment for safe drinking water in rural Maine.


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