As Clean Water Act’s 40th nears, panel to discuss history, future of landmark legislation

Edmund Muskie and Stewart Udall

In this early 1960s image, U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie ’36 and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, with an unidentified park ranger, visit Maine’s Cadillac Mountain. Image courtesy of the Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library.

One of the landmark environmental laws developed by the late U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie, the Clean Water Act turns 40 in mid-October 2012.

Bates College, from which Muskie graduated in 1936, presents a panel discussion exploring the history and future of the Clean Water Act at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Ave.

Editor’s Note, Oct. 5, 2012: See video of the panel.

The event is open to the public at no cost. An installment of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships’ Civic Forum series, the event is jointly sponsored with the history department, the environmental studies program and the Muskie Archives. For more information, please call 207-786-6202.

The panelists are:

  • Stephen Hinchman, an attorney who works with the Androscoggin River Alliance, an organization dedicated to the health of the river, the local economy and local communities;
  • Pete Didisheim, advocacy director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of Maine’s best-known environmental advocacy organizations;
  • Emily Figdor, director of Environment Maine, a research, education and advocacy organization;
  • and John Storer, engineer for the city of Auburn’s water and sewerage districts and the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission.

A native of Rumford, Maine, Muskie grew up well-aware of the sorry condition of the Androscoggin River, rendered one of the nation’s dirtiest waterways by decades of municipal and industrial pollution. An early champion of environmental protection, Muskie spearheaded the Clean Air Act of 1970 and later the Clean Water Act.

Today, while not pristine, the Androscoggin is dramatically healthier and is increasingly the focus of recreational and economic development initiatives.

Coinciding with growing public awareness of environmental issues and the establishment of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, these laws were instrumental both in reducing pollution of the nation’s air and waters, and establishing the pro-environmental mindset that continues to shape U.S. society and policymaking today.

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