Private water wells are amazing resources that give homeowners independence. However, not all homeowners are interested in a private well and prefer to pay to connect to municipal lines. So what happens when a homeowner who wants a municipal connection moves to a property with well? Alternatively, what happens to a well if the owner who dug it leaves the property? This week, we are exploring the concept of well abandonment and what it entails. Read on to learn how well abandonment works and why taking the proper steps is so important.

What Is Well Abandonment?

Essentially, well abandonment is the formal process of leaving and shutting down a private water well. No matter how well it was constructed, an out-of-service well poses a variety of problems if it is unsealed. While well abandonment sounds negative, the formal process is actually beneficial and dubbed as a decommissioning.

The Process

Dot Your “I”s And Cross Your “T”s

First and foremost, get your paperwork in order. Contact a well professional who knows how to decommission wells properly. Make sure that both you and the contractor have copies of any and all work permits that your local government requires for projects such as this. It sucks to have the county shut down the decommissioning process part way through.

Then, contact your local Department of Environmental Protection to inform them that you are decommissioning a well. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors private water wells to check for both environmental and health issues. Informing them helps keep their data accurate and other people with wells safe.

Fill It In

After homeowners put everything in order, the well contractor is able to begin the actual sealing process. They begin by essentially stripping the well. Contractors completely remove the well pup, filters, and other tools and components. Then, they seal the well from the bottom up. This requires special materials and experience to avoid any environmental contamination

Obviously, you can’t just pour cement in the ground and call it a day. The contractor begins by backstopping the well at the bottom. Then, they fill the shaft with either bentonite clay chips or cement bentonite grout. Sealing a well properly prevents water and other debris from aboveground having direct access to the underground aquifer.

Signs That A Well Is Abandoned Improperly

Sometimes, homebuyers stumble upon a property where there has been a well abandonment issue. There are a few key signs to look for, if this is a concern in your area.

  • Aboveground: Small pipes or plastic protuberances from the ground. Additionally, some very old wells had aboveground well houses that look like small buildings.
  • Land Problems: Depressions or suspicious rises with no explanation.
  • Historical Documents: Home expansion with poor organization and documents. Additionally, any word-of-mouth sources, such as neighbors.