Legislation would help pay for private well testing

By: Wisconsin Radio Network Contributor 

A 2013 study found 47 percent of private wells in the state had contamination levels that exceed state health standards, although a Democratic lawmaker argues many people who rely on wells don’t know if their water is safe to drink.

State Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) recently introduced what she’s calling “Clean Water Legislation”. The bill would provide $100,000 annually for the DNR to administer private well testing in a grant program working with local governments.

Shankland says she’s talked to many people affected by unclean drinking water in the state. “Unfortunately they either have to buy bottled water at the store or pay to get a reverse osmosis filter or get a new well dug. Really, its a big problem for people who live in the rural areas who can’t afford to dig a new well or the cost of bottled water is also, every year, a big cost for them,” said Shankland.

The DNR suggests that homeowners test their well at least once at year. Rep. Shankland says some are unaware that their well needs testing or cannot afford it.

Shankland says there is a Well Compensation Grant program in place right now, but says there’s problems with that program.  “There’s some, what I’d call, arbitrary restrictions in place,” she argues. “The rule in Wisconsin right now is if you have nitrate contamination about 40, which is 4 times the recommended maximum standards for nitrates, you have to own livestock in order to be eligible for state assistance.”

Shankland says the grant proposal has bipartisan support and she’s hopeful it will receive a hearing this session.