In Washington, the Department of Ecology estimates that there are thousands of unused and abandoned wells across the state. These wells can pose a threat to unsuspecting humans and animals—the incidents of people falling in wells has increased in recent years—as well as cause groundwater contamination.
In order to prevent these things from occurring, state law requires property owners to properly decommission any unused well. Apart from the statewide regulations, there are also decommissioning regulations that vary from county to county. We’re taking a closer look at how this process works, how to identify an abandoned well, and everything you need to know about decommissioning your Pierce County water well.
What is an Abandoned Well?
There are a number of reasons a well is considered abandoned: pump failure, a building getting connected to municipal water, contamination, or property development. In some cases, wells are drilled for temporary use in environmental testing or monitoring and are no longer needed once testing is complete.
Once a well is no longer in use, if left unnoticed, it can become a hazard in several different ways. Rotted or aging well coverings can collapse, leaving an unseen hole in the ground. This is particularly dangerous for children and animals. When contaminates enter these unused wells, that poses a huge threat to the groundwater as well as other nearby wells and drinking water that supplies households in the area.
Washington State only began recording new well development in the 1970s, which why many thousands of abandoned wells could exist in the state. These older wells, particularly hand-dug wells, pose the greatest danger. As a provider of well drilling and decommissioning in the state, we are doing our part to help inform well owners and property owners of the importance of decommissioning.
How to Decommission your Pierce County Well
If you have an abandoned well on your property, no longer use your water well, or experienced well failure that is irreparable, it is important to get it decommissioned as soon as possible. These are the steps that Pierce County well owners should take, but if you live in another county, the process will likely be very similar.
1. Contact Your County Health Department
The first step is to contact the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department and request a copy of the well decommissioning application. You will need to pay a small fee when you submit your application. Once you have an application, however, you can follow the guidelines to complete the next several steps in the process.
There are several layers to the application process, including:
- The reason for decommissioning the well
- A water analysis (if the well is known to be contaminated)
- A site diagram
- Description of the decommissioning method
- Department of Ecology Start Number
In order to complete the application, you will need to follow the next steps and work with a licensed driller to make sure the application is accurate.
2. Hire a Licensed Driller
Decommissioning requires the involvement of a licensed driller to ensure your well is properly cleaned, filled, and sealed. This process is monitored by state law and requires a well to be decontaminated (to protect the groundwater) before being filled and sealed with the appropriate material. This protects you, as the property owner, from any future issues or hazards, and it also protects the environment to have the well properly and safely sealed.
The Departement of Ecology provides a search tool to help Washington residents find a licensed driller in their area. You can also contact our team at Tacoma Drilling to schedule your decommissioning anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.
3. Submit a Notice of Intent
The Department of Ecology requires a Notice of Intent is submitted at least 72 hours prior to decommissioning a well. At this point, your licensed driller can help you submit the notice.
Once you receive your approval (or Start Number), you and your licensed driller can complete the application for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. In many ways, all of these steps happen at the same time as you work with your driller to collect all the necessary information about your property, well, and decommissioning method in order to get approval from the health department.
Get Started Today
Once your abandoned well has been decommissioned, you can have peace of mind that no harm will come to any visitors on your property, the groundwater that is one of our greatest resources, or any future owners of the property.
At this point, you can also begin the process of adding a new well to your property if you wish to continue using well water in your home or on your land. For more details about decommissioning or drilling a residential or commercial well, contact our team or submit a start card.