Battle Brewing Between Beer Makers and EPA Over Clean Water

Some of the biggest names in Maine beer making say there is a battle brewing over their biggest ingredient: water.

Four breweries have signed on to a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, urging the EPA to keep the Clean Water Rule, an Obama-era regulation that is supposed to protect small waterways from pollution.

Brew masters say clean water is the foundation of a quality beer, and they worry potential pollutants could impact their process.

"[Contaminated water] could absolutely impact the flavor and potentially the safety of the product as well," said Jason Perkins, the head-brewer at Allagash Brewing Company in Portland.

President Trump has signed an executive order, directing the EPA to review and possibly repeal the Clean Water Act. A spokesperson for the EPA did not return a request for comment. In the past, President Trump has stated that his administration will review regulations that could burden businesses.

"We try to steer clear of politics, but there’s zero political motivation here for us," said Perkins. "It’s strictly driven by what we feel is to protect our biggest raw material."

Allagash, along with Baxter Brewing Company in Lewiston, the Maine Beer Company in Freeport, and Rising Tide Brewing Company in Portland, has signed on to the EPA letter. In total, 48 breweries from across the country have signed on.

Nathan Sanborn, Owner and Director of Brewing Operations at Rising Tide, said signing the letter was an easy decision.

"We all need water to live, and for my business it’s our lifeblood," he said.

Both Rising Tide and Allagash use Portland municipal water, which comes from Sebago Lake. Perkins worries that a repeal of the Clean Water Rule could mean pollutants getting into smaller waterways, eventually making their way to Sebago and into their beer.

"Frankly, if we discover something bad in the water in Sebago Lake, in some ways it’s too late," he said. "It’s coming from a much deeper source."

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