Massachusetts Well Drilling Setback Requirements
When drilling a private water well in Massachusetts, there are several important factors to consider. Placement when drilling is a key element for safety, and to meet the legal requirements for a private well.
Massachusetts has passed these laws and enacted these regulations to protect not only the homeowner but the groundwater source of potential contamination and other factors. Here are the specific guidelines, factors, and regulations you should understand before undertaking the construction of a private well in Massachusetts.
Please Note – Your well water professional should be up to date on all of the state and local regulations surrounding well drilling in Massachusetts, but make sure you understand the basic laws. Ultimately as the property owner in the event of a violation, you may be held responsible. Make sure any drilling taking place on your property is properly permitted and inspected.
Well Drilling Location
When having a private well drilled, you should identify all potential sources of contamination existing within 200 feet of the site. Whenever possible, your well should be located “above” (up gradient) of all potential contamination sources and should be as far removed as possible based on the general layout of the premises and surroundings permit.
When selecting a location, consider all OSHA and Dig Safe requirements. Dig Safe must be contacted at least three days prior to drilling commencing. Make sure any drilled well is located so that it is accessible with proper equipment in the event repair is ever needed. Also make sure the location is accessible for testing, regular maintenance, and periodic inspection.
Any well must be completed in a water-bearing formation that will produce the required water needed under normal operating conditions without negatively impacting any adjacent wells. Here are some additional considerations regarding well placement:
• In Relation to Property Lines and Structures
Any private well should be located 10 feet from property lines at the minimum. The center line of any well, if extended vertically should clear any projection from an adjacent structure by at least 5 feet.
• Roads and Rights-of-Way
All private wells must be located at minimum 25 feet from any roadway and at least 15 feet from the road right of way, whichever is greater. Right-of-way regulations (323 CMR 11.00) includes procedures and requirements for marking and recording private wells which are within 100 feet of any right-of-way. Properly marked and recorded private wells are protected by restrictions on herbicide use for maintaining rights-of-way. Standard signs are available from the Department of Agricultural Resources.
• Surface Water and Wetlands
Private wells should be located 25 feet laterally from the high water mark of any lake, pond, river, stream ditch or slough. Land use within 100 feet of a wetland or within the 100-year floodplain on any river or stream is regulated under Chapter 131 section 40 of the MA General laws and 310 CMR 10.00 “wetlands protection.” Prior to any digging approval must be given by the local Conservation Commission. When possible, any private well should be located above the 100-year floodplain.
Title 5 regulations provide minimum standards for the location, design, construction, and operation of subsurface sanitary sewage disposal systems that discharge less than 10,000 gallons per day. These regulations were originally implemented to protect against pathogenic viruses and bacteria. Local hydro-geologic conditions may require more stringent regulations. Local Boards of Health have the authority to strengthen Title 5 by implementing appropriate and reasonable local regulations.
Adherence to Title 5 regulations are crucial to maintain the health and safety of your water well. Your well water professional will be aware of, and follow all local and state regulations regarding Title 5. Variance to Title 5 is available under certain conditions. Your local Board of Health has the ability to grant a variance, but any application must be reviewed by the Massachusetts DEP Wastewater Management Program.
Well Drilling Setbacks
Setbacks may be used as guidance for locating a potable well. They may be adapted to fit local regulation because of a potential hazard to a well. Lesser setback distances may be used for non-potable wells in accordance with Title 5 regulations.
When applying setbacks, consider the direction of the ground- water flow and the location of any discharge of groundwater to a surface water body such as a lake, pond or river. Whenever possible, wells should be located above any potential sources of contamination. Wells should never be located between a potential source of contamination and an area where groundwater discharges to the land surface. Other considerations include permeability, transmissivity, and composition of subsurface geological materials.
The State has regulated minimal setback distances including:
• Property Line 10 feet
• Pubic Private Roadway 25 feet
• Right of Way 15 feet
• Stable, Barnyard, Manure Storage 100 feet
• Above Ground Storage of Pesticides 100 feet
• Underground Fuel or Pesticide Storage 250 feet
Title 5 Requirements:
• Sewer Line / Septic Tank 50 feet
• Leaching Field or Dry-well 100 feet
• Surface Water / Wetlands 25 feet
Many of these figures may vary based on local regulations. Your well water professional will know and understand the process, procedure and regulations regarding permitting, inspection and drilling of both potable and non-potable wells.
As a homeowner, you should speak with your well water professional when planning, permitting and drilling your private well. Placement is not only critical for clean, safe water, it's important to make sure that all state and local regulations are followed. Working closely with a local well water professional is your best course of action. Give Skillings and Sons a call at 1-800-441-6281 if you have questions on well drilling in Massachusetts.