Both New Hampshire and Massachusetts have state laws requiring homeowners hire a well professional service to seal, or decommission, a well no longer in use.
In New Hampshire, there are specific guidelines regulating the materials and methods for decommissioning wells. The licensed water well contractor is also required to file an Abandoned Well Registration Report with the Water Well Board within 90 days after a well has been decommissioned. Massachusetts also has strict guidelines for decommissioning a well, including filing a report with the state and local Board of Health and specifying what materials should be used.
Why seal an abandoned water well?
Besides the obvious hazard abandoned wells pose to animals and small children, an abandoned well that is not properly sealed can cause contamination of the water supply, not just on your property but for all homeowners who draw water from the aquifer.
The casing in older wells is known to rust, joints leak and the well may fill with debris. Even if a well is covered with boards or concrete, the cover will eventually decay and break open. That allows surface water runoff to carry bacteria, organic matter, and other contaminants into the well.
When do I have to seal an abandoned well?
To protect the safety of those who enter your property, as well as the quality of the ground water in your area, you should hire a professional to seal a well when:
• the well is a physical threat to people’s safety
• the well is no longer in use
• the well was improperly sealed
• the well is contaminated or is filled with debris
• the well posed a threat to the quality of the groundwater
How to locate an abandoned well
There are some obvious physical signs that point to an abandoned well that was covered or filled over, yet still needs to be properly sealed. Remember that public water is a relatively new innovation and that most homes before then drew water from wells, so there may be an abandoned well on your property even if you have public water.
Consider asking those in your area if they remember any old wells on the property. Take a look at old pictures of your home and the surrounding property. Was there a windmill, hand pump or small structure near the home that could have been used for drawing well water? Take a look at old maps and property documents for clues. Also, keep an eye out for pipes sticking out of the ground, either outside the home or in the basement, depressions in the ground, and concrete pits, often covered with a metal sheet or lumber.
Do property research on abandoned wells
If you suspect there is an abandoned well on your property but cannot find any visible signs, consider searching state records for more information. In New Hampshire, all wells constructed after 1984 are recorded, as required by law, in the Water Well Inventory Program. These reports include information about the construction details and a description of the geologic materials and subsurface conditions at the well site. You can find information on how to access these records and locate the well on your property here.
Skillings & Sons has been in the well drilling business for more than 40 years and can help you determine if there is an abandoned well on your property. For an inspection to ensure the well has been properly sealed and recorded with the appropriate state agency, call us today.