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Partnership aims to test all town wells for arsenic

Bar Harbor’s Local Health Officer Mike Gurtler is spearheading an effort to get all wells in Bar Harbor tested for arsenic.  

Arsenic is naturally occurring in many Maine wells and is a significant health threat, causing cancer, heart disease, immune dysfunction and developmental delays in children.  

Gurtler will be coordinating with MDI Biological Laboratory’s “All About Arsenic” program, funded through a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences. This initiative builds on an ongoing program engaging teachers and students throughout Maine and New Hampshire in a well water monitoring effort.  

Conners Emerson School in Bar Harbor has been involved since 2019 and collected 81 well water samples in the town. Analysis of these samples found that 10 percent of tested wells exceed the EPA acceptable arsenic levels of 10 parts per billion. 

The goal of this new initiative is to collect another 100 well water samples from residential wells in Bar Harbor. Connors Emerson teacher Lynn Hanna will engage her students in creating outreach materials for the new collaborative partnership. Test kits are being supplied by Defend Our Health, a Portland-based nonprofit whose mission is to protect public health. 

Sample kits will be available for pick up between Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 during regular business hours at the Bar Harbor Town Office or on specified dates and times at Conners Emerson School. Well water samples must be returned to either location by Nov. 2. College of the Atlantic faculty and students will schedule deliveries of kits to households using private well water in Bar Harbor when requested. This at-home sampling service will be available from Oct. 18 through Nov. 1. Reservations must be made by Oct. 28. Contact shall@coa.edu to schedule at-home sampling. 

Information about legislative efforts to address the arsenic issue in Maine will be available on Nov. 2 at the Municipal Building at 93 Cottage Street in Bar Harbor. Water samples may be dropped off at the Municipal Building from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on that day.  

For more information about the Bar Harbor well monitoring initiative or to get a test kit, contact Mike Gurtler at mgurtler@barharbormaine.gov


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