New England residents decades ago relied on wells for the water they used in their homes and on the farm. In rural towns today, an estimated 90 percent of residents still depend on private wells for their water needs. As farms and other properties have been developed over the years, some of the older wells once used for water were abandoned for more modern wells, and some were even forgotten. If you know there is an old well on your property, or have discovered something you think might be an old well, it is important to call a licensed well professional to ensure it is properly sealed.
In most states, property owners are required to disclose the presence of an abandoned well before the sale of a home. In some cases, however, abandoned wells may not be documented.
Signs of an old well include:
• a circular stone or metal plate located in an outbuilding or basement
• a pit in the yard or basement covered by stone, wood or a metal plate
• water system components, like a pump or electrical wiring coming up from the ground
• water line in an outbuilding or portion of the basement
Why Seal An Old Water Well?
Old wells can pose an obvious physical threat to children and small animals. Responsible property owners will certainly want to seal a well for the safety of those who live and visit their property.
In some cases, old wells may appear to be adequately covered by dirt or with a stone or metal cover. These wells may seem stable, but they leave the area open to contaminants. Rain and flooding can draw contaminants, like bacteria and fertilizer, into the groundwater system through the well. Likewise, contaminants within the well can leach into an aquifer and cause contamination of nearby wells. In some case, water deep within a well with bubble up through a pipe or casing within the well, causing water damage to the property.
Without documentation from a licensed well professional that the well has been properly sealed, homeowners have no way of knowing if an abandoned well poses a risk.
Sealing a Water Well
Homeowners must hire a professional well service to seal, or decommission, a well no longer in use. Dug wells and artesian wells must be handled differently, so it is important to hire a service, like Skillings & Sons, that has extensive experience with both types of wells.
Before you make the call, consider doing research about the well. 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.
State laws determine how the well should be decommissioned. In New Hampshire, the laws are very specific as to the material that needs to be used, based on the type of abandoned well on your property. Once completed, the licensed water well contractor is 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 hiring a licensed contractor and filing a report with the state and local Board of Health.
If you suspect there is an old or abandoned well on your property, call Skillings & Sons for an inspection and to ensure the well has been properly sealed and recorded with the appropriate state agency.