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Nitrate Contamination Increasing in Wisconsin’s Rural Wells

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While Wisconsin is renowned for its scenic beauty and rural vistas, beneath the surface lies a hidden concern: nitrate contamination. In the midst of its picturesque landscapes, nitrate pollution poses a significant threat to water quality and public health. Recent studies have shown that nitrate contamination is increasing in Wisconsin’s rural private wells.

Nitrates, introduced mainly through agricultural runoff, fertilizers, and industrial activities, can infiltrate groundwater, leading to elevated levels in drinking water sources. This situation creates notable health risks, especially for vulnerable groups such as infants, pregnant women, and the elderly.

Understanding the hazards of nitrate

Elevated nitrate levels in drinking water have adverse effects on human health. Prolonged exposure to nitrates has been linked to increased cancer risk, thyroid disorders, neurological problems, and even“blue baby syndrome.”

Is your well at risk of contamination?

Because soil type and land use play a significant role in nitrate presence, certain areas of Wisconsin are more prone to contamination. (See map for high-risk areas)

Wisconsin map showing areas of highest nitrate contamination

Nitrate can come from various sources, including:

      • Agricultural Practices: Runoff from excessive fertilizers and manure usage in agricultural fields introduces nitrates into groundwater.

      • Industrial Activities: Industrial operations and wastewater discharges containing nitrate compounds can contaminate water sources.

      • Septic Systems: Leaks or malfunctions in septic systems can release nitrates into the ground, ultimately polluting groundwater.

There is helpfor nitrate contamination

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provides funds of up to $16,000 for eligible landowners, renters, or Wisconsin business owners to replace, reconstruct, or treat contaminated private water supplies that serve a residence or non-community public water system wells. The program aims to improve access to clean drinking water across the state.

To qualify, applicants must meet income eligibility, and the contamination must be documented by a state-certified test laboratory.

Learn more about the grant program.

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