Site Description-SL

Title

Lifeless River: Making the Androscoggin Uninhabitable

Author Biography

Visiting New Hampshire’s White Mountains since my earliest days has instilled in me a deep appreciation for unmolested nature. When I discovered one of New England’s prime fisheries was wholly uninhabitable a mere half century ago, I was instantly drawn to the story. Though the Androscoggin’s putrid history has all but vanished, its story reveals many socio-environmental problems yet unaddressed.

Project Site Description

In the summer of 1941, residents of Lewistown and Auburn, Maine suffered through putrid air reeking of rotting eggs and sour cabbage. Twenty miles north, along the Androscoggin River, residents of Berlin commuted to the paper mill and noticed their white houses blackened and blistering. Recognizing the environmental devastation caused by the dumping of caustic chemicals into the river, those with the means, fled Berlin for the fresh sea breezes of the Maine coast or the shaded alcoves of the White Mountains. Those left behind continued breathing foul air along a river so damaged it could not sustain even the slightest semblance of life. This project will explore the following: Why were some residents able to flee Berlin while others were not? To what extent did the Brown Company understand the environmental devastation resulting from its operations? Were efforts to remediate and prevent pollution appropriate/adequate? Why was government unable to effectively regulate the pollution of the Androscoggin? It is my hope this research will shed light on factors influencing the winners and losers in the exploitation of the environment for economic gain, and perhaps inform how governments address the environmental challenges facing us in the 21st century.

Key Words

Class, Pollution, Water, Factories, Business