Friday, September 1, 2017

BLOG: Protect Your Groundwater Day is September 5

If you are a private water well owner, there are many ways to protect your water quality. Two of the most important are:

1. To make sure your well is properly capped, and 
2. To properly plug any abandoned wells on your property. 

That’s why the 2017 theme for Protect Your Groundwater Day, on Tuesday, September 5, is “Cap It, Plug It!” 

Why is this so important? A water well provides a direct connection between the what’s above the ground and groundwater in the subsurface. 

If an active water well is not properly capped—or if an abandoned well is not properly plugged—it can create a direct pathway for contamination in the same groundwater you and others use for their drinking water supply. 

If you own a household well, you are responsible for making sure that your well is properly capped and any abandoned wells on your property are properly plugged. 

What makes a properly capped water well? First, not just any covering will do on top of the well casing, that vertical pipe that extends above the ground in your well. A proper well cap should: 
• Be bolted or locked, so that it cannot be easily removed, 
• Have a rubber seal to prevent anything from infiltrating the well where the cap is joined to the well casing, 
• Be in good condition. 

A tight-fitting well cap that is not bolted or locked can be jarred loose or removed by someone other than the well owner. Also, a well cap that lacks a rubber seal or is cracked or otherwise broken can allow bugs, vermin, bacteria or other types of contaminants above the ground surface into the well.

 Well caps should be installed by a water well system professional, and any well cap maintenance or replacement should be done by a professional. Also, a well system should be disinfected when a well cap is installed, repaired, or replaced. 

How do I properly plug an abandoned well? First, the challenge is to find abandoned wells on your property. Some abandoned wells are obvious while others are not. Survey your property for: 
• Pipes sticking out of the ground. 
• Small buildings that may have been a well house. 
• Depressions in the ground. 
• The presence of concrete vaults or pits. 
 Out-of-use windmills. 

Other tips for finding old, abandoned wells can be found in: 
• Old maps, property plans or property title documents. 
• Neighbors. 
• Additions to an old home that might cover up an abandoned well. 

A water well system professional may do additional checking—including a records check—for more information about abandoned wells. 

A water well system professional should always plug an abandoned well using proper techniques, equipment, and materials. The professional should: • Remove all material from the well that may hinder proper plugging. 
• Disinfect the well. 
• Then plug the well using a specialized grout that (1) keeps surface water from working its way into the borehole, and (2) prevents water from different subsurface levels from mixing. 

The cost to plug a well depends on factors including: 
• The depth and diameter of the well 
• The geology of the area 
• Accessibility to the well, and 
• The condition of the well. 

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