Nancy Oden



Published on February 7, 2004, by the Bangor Daily News

Let's Have Good Jobs in a Clean Maine

by Nancy Oden

Should the people of Maine bribe a huge, profitable corporation with a $25 million gift so they'll stay just a little longer, while they continue to devastate and poison our woods and waters, including the Penobscot River?

The proposal for the people of Maine to buy Georgia-Pacific's Old Town dump for $25 million would allow G-P to keep dumping toxic sludge there for 30 more years. It would also gives Casella, who already owns Tom Sawyer's Mountain of garbage in Hampden, the right to put virtually UNLIMITED out-of-state waste in that same dump. And Maine's citizens will own it all.

G-P's Old Town dump is already leaking heavy metals, dioxins, and other chemicals into tributaries of the Penobscot River, according to DEP's own water tests. If this proposal passes, all those millions of dollars and massive efforts by so many people to restore the Penobscot River's fisheries will have been in vain.

Because We the People are the ones who will be affected, tens of thousands of us along the Penobscot and into Penobscot Bay and the coastal fisheries — this decision should be made by Maine people, not the DEP bureaucrats.

DEP's boss is Governor Baldacci, so if he wants to do the right thing here, he will order full public hearings on this toxic dump, to be followed by public discussion and debate, and then a Referendum question on the ballot in November, so we the people can make this important decision.

Once the paper companies leave, and they are all going soon, what can we do instead of what they've done to Maine's woods and waters? What can we do to replace those (the few that are left) jobs?

Here are some ideas: I'm sure others have more.

  1. Buy back the forests and let them regenerate so that regular people can work in the woods again, sustainably cutting firewood (there's a shortage right now) and logs for lumber to build our houses, which can be sawn up by small sawmill operators. These used to be numerous, and can be again. Keep the forests under ownership and control of Maine's people, where it used to be.
  2. Once the woods and waters have cleansed themselves of paper mill toxics, the fish and wildlife will come back so that we can once again fish and eat the wild food. This will, unfortunately, take a few years, but then there will be renewed demand for Maine Guides and more chances for safe, clean recreation in the Maine Woods.
  3. Hire people to check every truck coming into Maine for contents and destination. If a truck is carrying hazardous chemicals, another worker should ascertain that the load went where intended, and wasn't dumped in our woods or waters, as I and others have seen firsthand.
  4. Shut down all Maine incinerators and go quickly to all-encompassing composting of food garbage, re-use, and recycling of nearly everything else. Special trucks should pick up people's recyclables and trash, along with special hazardous waste materials, making it convenient for people to do the right thing. This element has heretofore been missing from many recycling/composting/re-use programs.
  5. Ban all out-of-state garbage from Maine. Once we're composting and re-using and recycling, we can legally do that. Until then, Casella and others will just keep bringing it in from everywhere and burning it in Maine incinerators, and then dumping that toxic material here.
  6. Then, within Maine, we can collect with our special trucks still-usable clothing, books, tools, housewares, toys, furniture, appliances, and so on, and funnel them into local or regional co-operatives for repair, re-sale, or for use as material to make new items.

None of these jobs would harm Maine, and would, in fact, help keep our beautiful State clean and productive.

We could create more jobs by stopping the spraying of pesticides on agriculture crops (as well as in the woods) and using people again to work and harvest crops. The State should help subsidize growers to switch to clean (organic) growing because we're all affected by their use of poisons. This would further help clean up our waters, and improve our health since we wouldn't be sprayed with dangerous chemicals every year.

More livelihoods could be created by the State subsidizing young people to work the land on small–medium, diversified organic farms. This would keep our young people here and provide us with healthy, local food supplies, certainly adding to our food security.

After all the devastation Maine has suffered from the paper mills and other filthy industries, there will be plenty of work to be done in cleaning up their messes and revitalizing Maine's natural world: water testing for toxic leaks, dredging, toxic dump cleanups, renewing the fisheries with many hatcheries and hiring fishermen to put them where they belong and monitor their well-being, just so very much work to be done, once the poisoners are gone.

These suggestions alone would more than cover all the paper mill jobs in Maine, plus hundreds, perhaps thousands, more.

Then we can get our elected officials to force the agency bureaucrats to do what's right for Maine's people, instead of pandering to the filthy industries. That's why we need public hearings and important questions put to Referendum so that We, the People, make the decisions that affect our lives.

Once we accomplish all this, we can say that Maine is the way life should be, and it will be true.

For now, though, we do need to stop this toxic dump proposal.

Please help — we're all affected by the poisoning of our air, woods, waters, our children, and children yet to be born.

Nancy Oden lives in Jonesboro. She is coordinator of the Clean Maine Coalition and can be reached at or 497-5727.



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