DNR launches new $10M grant program for contaminated private wells

By Hannah Borchert

AMHERST, Wis. (WSAW) - Fixing a contaminated private well can cost you thousands of dollars. If that’s an issue for you, you might be in luck. Monday, Oct. 3rd is the first day you can submit an application to the DNR towards their new $10 Million Grant Program addressing contaminated private wells.

The program could cover the entire cost of a new well or a treatment system, with a cap of $16,000. But first, you have to prove you have a contaminated private well and that you meet eligibility requirements.

“In Portage County, almost one in four people with private wells cannot drink from their tap. and that’s something many people take for granted, but for them, they’re thinking about water all the time,” said Representative Katrina Shankland Assembly District 71.

That’s true for Karen Hannon who’s been dealing with well contamination issues since 2017. She found out her well had some of the highest nitrate levels in Portage County. This means the water at her home is unsafe for her family to drink from the faucet. She said she has to buy bottles and jugs of water.

“But it’s really a pain to have to carry jugs of water, and I found that I don’t drink as much water and I found that I don’t drink as much as I should be just because it’s kind of a pain to have to go get the jug of water every time,” said Karen Hannon, Town of Hull, Stevens Point.

Hannon said she hopes the new $10 million grant program addressing contaminated private wells can help.

This is why she joined representative Katrina Shankland’s community town hall launch Monday. Shankland said she’s been working with Portage County community members for years on this issue.

“Karen Hannon is somebody that I met years ago and she was one of the first people to point out that the well compensation grant program is not really accessible. most people don’t qualify,” said Rep. Shankland.

Monday marks significant criteria changes. For nitrate contamination, you are no longer required to have livestock using the water. The nitrate threshold was lowered from 40 ppm to 10 ppm. The income eligibility also changed. Before family income has to be less than $65,000 now its been raised to $100,000.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a very long time and I’m very excited because this was my 8th try in the legislature to try to get something done,” said Rep. Shankland.

It’s an issue both Hannon and Shankland prioritize.

“I’m not sure we’re all taking this as seriously as we should,” said Shankland.

Drinking water with high levels of nitrate can cause serious health problems like thyroid disease or even gastric cancer. Experts recommend you get your private well tested once a year.

The money will be distributed on a first come first serve basis according to Shankland. She recommended getting your application in as soon as possible.

For eligibility and application information click here.

The application requires you to get your water tested twice at least two weeks apart to prove contamination. Here is a link to the UWSP Water and Environmental Analysis Lab you can do that.

If you have questions you can contact Rep. Shankland at 608-267-9649 or email Rep.Shankland@legis.wisconsin.gov

To look at the Wisconsin water contamination map click here. You can find your specific areas’ level of contamination in various contaminants.