Despite the advancements in water management and delivery, basic water wells remain the best method for supplying drinking and washing water to rural properties with no existing municipal supply connection. Older wells can work just as well, but they need attention after sitting out of use for a while.
Buying a property with a well that has sat out of use for more than a year, or discovering an old well on your property, leaves you with a few options. Decide on a course of action only after understanding the steps required for each one.
Restore the Well
Regardless of the age of the well, it can be returned to use for supplying your home or an agricultural project if the well is in good condition and the water is clean. The process requires all of the following steps or it could be dangerous to use, even for fields and livestock.
Most homeowners test the water in the well first to determine if they're even interested in using the water. Local health departments and extension offices typically offer water testing services for a small fee. Well owners should test their water annually.
High levels of contaminants like lead, fertilizer or gasoline are nearly impossible to clean up, so wells with these problems are best capped. Bacteria can be treated with a chlorine shock treatment. If the shocking fails and the next test shows bacteria, it's likely from the environment and not worth pursuing.
A well isn't ready to use again just because it has good water at the bottom of it. Damage to any point of a driven or drilled well results in sandy particulate, clogged equipment and low volumes of water.
Have any old wells you find inspected by a water well professional before assuming they're still good enough to use. A quick inspection with a weighted camera reveals cracks and collapses in the well sides, along with sediment at the bottom.
Simple fixes are available for stabilizing cracked wells and removing material that could clog up the pipes. A professional well inspector can help you decide how much work you're willing to put into an old well based on its condition.
Regardless of the condition of the water, an old well that sits unused for over a year or an unknown time needs a shock treatment before use. New wells also need shocking, along with any well that is unused for more than a few months.
Shocking can be done by a homeowner, but you'll still need professional testing before and after the process. It's better to leave the entire process to a professional since an old well can develop other problems over the course of a chlorine treatment.
Finally, it's simply a matter of replacing any missing well pumps, pressure tanks and other associated equipment. This equipment rarely lasts through a long period of sitting without use due to corrosion.
Plug the Well
When the water tests keep returning bad results or you simply don't have the budget for repairs, it's best to cap the well instead. Even the small openings drilled for modern water wells pose a safety hazard both to humans and animals.
You can't just pour cement or concrete down the well opening since these materials shrink as they dry, potentially allowing water to leak in and out. Most areas call for using a compacting grout material that combines chips of bentonite with a nonshrinking cement binder.
Hiring a well water company is the best way to make sure your unused well is either restored to safe working condition or sealed according to local standards. Call us at Brown & Cox anytime you discover an old well on your property.