Reverse Osmosis In-Service: Treating high nitrate concentrations in private wells
In 2023, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB1014. This bill took 4 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act and allocated it to treating nitrate issues in Nebraska. 1.2 million dollars of that has been dedicated to a Reverse Osmosis Rebate Program that is directed at private well owners. The general idea of the program is that any individual private drinking water well owner can test their water AND if the nitrate concentration comes back above 10 ppm, they might be eligible for UP TO $4,000 support to get a reverse osmosis system to treat their nitrate.
- This program is open to anyone in Nebraska with a private well.
- The private well must be registered.
- Applicants will need to submit water quality data from the DHHS State Water Laboratory with testing results no later than January 1, 2022.
- Only wells with samples above 10 ppm will be eligible for this program.
Nebraskans who get their drinking water from a private drinking water well are responsible for the safety of their own drinking water. There are no regulations or requirements for individual well owners to test or treat their water, so it is important that these well owners know what is in their water. Maintaining safe drinking water helps to protect the health of those drinking the water from the well.
How do I apply?
The application for the RO Rebate program is available at http://go.unl.edu/roapplication. Before filling out this application, several things must be in place.
- WATER QUALITY TESTING: The water from your well must be tested for nitrate through the Department of Health and Human Services State Laboratory after January 1, 2022. To order a state lab kit, go to http:go.unl.edu/ordertestkit. Once you've ordered a kit, it will be mailed to you. Follow the instructions included in the kit to test your water within 90 days and mail it back. If your nitrate concentration is higher than 10ppm, you may be eligible for the rebate program.
- WELL REGISTRATION: The next step is to check your well registration at go.unl.edu/checkwell. If your well is registered, move on to the next step. Wells that were installed after September of 1993 will be registered. If it's not registered, follow the link to http://go.unl.edu/registerwell to get it registered. Sandpit and hand-dug wells will not be eligible for this program.
- COST ESTIMATE: If you've got a nitrate concentration above 10 ppm and a registered well, the next step is to get a cost estimate from one of the following:
- Licesed plumber
- Entity that has performed at least 5 successful private well reverse osmosis small water treatment installations.
This cost estimate must contain
- A written clause that states the installer "will not charge...for the installation....unless the post-instalation testing results [of the water] through the DHHS Laboratory show levels of nitrate less than 10 ppm.
- A Treatment Systems Certification for the removal of nitrate
- Documentation that shows the system will have a Performance Indication Device to alert the user when the system is not meeting treatment standards.
For installations that cost more than $2,000 contractors and subcontractors must document that laborers on the project will be paid wages established per the Davis-Bacon Act for the residential plumber classification.
Receiving the Rebate
After an RO system has been installed, the applicant will have to provide some information to the NDEE, including:
- Citizen Attestation Award
- Confirmation that the plumber/installer is in good standing
- Post-installation test results from the DHHS State Laboratory
- Other applicable provisions
More infomation on the Reverse Osmosis Rebate Program, along with the application forms and an instructional video can be found on the NDEE website. Inquireies can also be made to NDEE State Revolving Fund Section Supervisor Steve McNulty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (402) 471-4200.
This article was reviewed by Laura Nagengast, Extension Educator