Every family in Wisconsin deserves safe water, but tens of thousands of rural Wisconsinites can’t drink the water flowing from their taps because their wells are contaminated with harmful nitrates or PFAS. Now, the Evers Administration is stepping in to give these families peace of mind by dramatically expanding a program that helps private well owners keep harmful contaminants out of their water.
The Well Compensation Grant Program helps Wisconsinites replace, rebuild, treat or abandon their contaminated wells. But the program has long been underfunded, and restrictive eligibility requirements meant that most families dealing with contamination were left out. Now those families can start getting the help they need. Governor Evers recently announced a large, multi-million dollar expansion of the program with $10 million in grants available thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the Department of Natural Resources is ensuring that families across Wisconsin will now be eligible to apply.
“The legislature has repeatedly failed to update Wisconsin’s well compensation program, but Governor Evers is finally delivering relief for rural families and small businesses,” says Clean Wisconsin Water Program Director Scott Laeser. “After the Natural Resources Board hung rural families out to dry when they rejected groundwater standards for dangerous PFAS compounds in February, this program provides a path to clean drinking water for those struggling with PFAS contamination in private wells. The Evers Administration has also made it far easier for the tens of thousands of families with nitrates in their water to access the program.”
Previously, people with wells contaminated by nitrates could only access the grant program if their wells were used to supply water to livestock. The Evers Administration has removed that livestock requirement and lowered contamination limit from 40 parts per million to 10 parts per million, which is in line with state health standards.
Outdated income restrictions and grant payment limits also made it largely impossible for families with PFAS contamination to get help from the program. Households with incomes higher than $65,000 per year were not allowed to qualify for grants at all. The Evers Administration has now raised the household income eligibility limit to $100,000 and removed the requirement that a grant must be reduced by 30% if a family’s income exceeds $45,000.
“For years, there has been little or no help for these families,” Laeser says. “Expanding this program is a strong start to addressing dangerous water contamination plaguing so many of our rural communities. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to provide the additional funding required to make sure no rural family is left behind”
The Department of Natural Resources is now accepting applications for the Well Compensation Grant Program. Click here to learn more.