Passing town ordinances that abolish “”corporate personhood”” may be the way to stop sewage sludge haulers from contaminating Maine’s land and water resources with toxic wastes from Springfield, Mass.

Last month Porter Township in western Pennsylvania became the nation’s first unit of local government to enact an ordinance eliminating corporate claims to civil and constitutional privileges.

The new ordinance holds that a corporation is a legal fiction, or “”thing,”” not a “”person”” with legal privileges to override local self-governance. Its aim is to prevent corporations operating in Porter Township from blocking efforts of local citizens from passing laws to protect themselves against toxic sewage sludge.

Earlier, to keep out Pittsburgh-generated sludge, township officials joined those of a dozen other towns to pass ordinances requiring sludge haulers to pay a per ton tipping fee. The fee was to cover costs of extensive tests needed to verify the safety of each load of sludge to be spread on land.

Predictably, the corporations responded with judicial, legislative and lobbying efforts to thwart adoption of the tipping fee ordinances. Porter Township, however, pressed on and passed its landmark elimination of corporate personhood ordinance.

Porter Township’s ordinance is based upon model legislation drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund in Chambersburg, Pa. CELDF offers its services free or at very low cost to communities around the country.

Residents of Litchfield, Whitefield, Pittston and other towns concerned about pathogen-contaminated sludge from Springfield, Mass., may be interested in joining together to obtain a Maine-specific model ordinance from the CELDF. A model ordinance could be a potent tool for protecting the public’s health and safety.

Russell P. Kaniuka, Farmington

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