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Home » Nitrate Contamination Increasing in Wisconsin’s Rural Wells

Nitrate Contamination Increasing in Wisconsin’s Rural Wells

Recent studies have shown that nitrate contamination is increasing in Wisconsin’s rural private wells.

High nitrate levels pose a significant threat to private wells and businesses across the nation. 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. Once ingested, nitrates can convert into nitrites, causing a condition known as methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome,” which impairs the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity. Moreover, prolonged exposure to nitrates has been linked to increased cancer risk, thyroid disorders, and neurological problems.

Is your well at risk of contamination?

Wisconsin map showing areas of highest nitrate contamination
Nitrate contamination is common
in many regions of Wisconsin.

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)

Nitrate originates 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 help for 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.