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Mr. Graham Replies

December 2023
1min read

Sir: … The point at issue in my article was Senator Muskie’s decision to support the declassification of the Prestile. In the light of the state’s claim that Vahlsing had violated antipollution regulations thirty-one times in the previous five years, this support cannot be justified. Trouble was inevitable.

It is true that the Prestile was polluted long before 1965. But the town of Mars Hill had invested in a treatment plant, and its efforts were undone by the potato wastes. Indeed, I wrote that by 1965 “The Prestile’s quality was B only on the W.I.C.'s [Water Improvement Commission] books; in fact, it had become an open sewer.”

I do not defend Maine’s antiquated pollution laws. I simply said that the proposal to lower the Prestile’s classification was a device to circumvent even those deficient laws.

I specifically said that the sugar-beet refinery “apparently has not become a source of pollution.” I pointed out that by lowering the classification and by backing millions of dollars of loans to Vahlsing, state officials obviously had hindered the legal effort to secure abatement of the potato wastes. In this sense the state took the company “off the hook” and opened the way to the 1968 border incident.

Finally, I did not attempt to measure Senator Muskie’s affection for Fred Vahlsing. Whatever its degree, however, I am certain it was strained by the fiasco on the New Brunswick border.

As for Mr. Erwin, I did not mention his name in the article, and I sympathize with his plight. In the passages he objected to I was making the point that neither he nor his predecessor could move effectively against the pollution without jeopardizing the state’s investment in the sizable sugar-beet loans. The resultant flurry of legal activity which was slow to produce results became a source of the conservationists’ dissatisfaction.

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