OCONTO, Wis. (WFRV) – Governor Tony Evers was in the City of Oconto on Tuesday to announce a new $10 million grant program to improve access to clean drinking water across the state.

The program will expand eligibility beyond the current Well Compensation Program to support more private well owners and increase access to clean drinking water by replacing, reconstructing, treating, and/or abandoning contaminated wells.

With the $10 million investment, over 1,000 additional wells will be addressed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Whether it’s our kids in our schools, families cooking dinner, or our farmers who depend on conservation, every Wisconsinite deserves access to clean, safe water,” said Governor Evers. “Unfortunately, too many families across our state know firsthand how it feels to turn on the tap and not be able to trust what comes out, and many have had to rely on plastic water bottles for drinking water.

Governor Evers also expressed his pleasure in committing these funds to make improvements on the many private wells this grant will help out.

“I am glad to be making this investment today while getting rid of outdated and burdensome requirements that will help ensure more Wisconsinites clean up their wells and keep their families healthy and safe,” added Governor Evers.

The $10 million grant will make significant upgrades to the current Well Compensation Program by:

  • Eliminating the requirement that a nitrate-contaminated well is only eligible for a grant if it is used as a water supply for livestock; 
  • Lowering the nitrate threshold for nitrate-contaminated wells from 40 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm to comply with the state’s public health standards; 
  • Lowering the arsenic standard for arsenic-contaminated wells from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb to comply with federal drinking water standards;  
  • Allowing any source of bacterial contamination that presents a human health risk to be eligible for the program, not just fecal bacteria caused by livestock;  
  • Increasing the family income limit for grants from $65,000 to $100,000, a threshold that has not been raised since 1995; 
  • Eliminating the requirement that an award must be reduced by 30 percent of the amount by which the claimant’s income exceeds $45,000 if the claimant has a family income that exceeds $45,000; and 
  • Expanding eligible applicants to include owners of contaminated non-community wells (churches, daycare centers, rural restaurants, and other small businesses) and basing income eligibility on the property or business owner’s income instead of family income.

“Everyone in Wisconsin deserves clean drinking water,” said DNR Secretary Preston Cole. “This money will be available to private well owners who need help dealing with contaminated groundwater, and DNR is excited to offer this assistance.”

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According to a release, there are around 800,000 wells in Wisconsin that serve an estimated 40% of Wisconsin households.

For more information, you can visit the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website here.