What is Well Decommissioning and Why is it Important?

If you own a water well—or are planning to add one to your property—you’ve likely come across the term “decommissioning.” But what is decommissioning and what does it have to do with your water well? As professional drillers, we are also certified to decommission wells in Washington State. Read on to learn everything you need to know about decommissioning wells in the Pacific Northwest.

Decommissioning Basics

The word decommission is used to describe removing something from service. In the case of the military, they may decommission a base, or the Navy may decommission a ship. When it comes to water wells, the State of Washington requires that any old, unused, or abandoned well be properly decommissioned.

This is standard practice for many reasons. First, it allows the state to safely keep track of how many water wells are still in use. In order to better understand water supply and use, it helps to see how many homes, businesses, or farms depend on well water.

Second, proper decommissioning ensures old wells are not a safety hazard. When wells are abandoned, they present a risk to animals and humans alike. This is especially true of older, hand-dug wells that have wider openings.

Third, decommissioning standards also ensure that an abandoned well doesn’t pose a threat to the groundwater. Since that water is supplying your neighbors’ wells, and perhaps your new well, it is important that it stays clean and safe. When a well is left unused, it creates an opportunity for contaminants such as animal carcasses, fertilizer runoff, or landfill runoff to reach the groundwater.

Decommissioning plays an important role in the lifespan of a water well. As well owners, it’s our job to make sure any old or unused wells go through the proper steps to be decommissioned.

How to Decommission a Well

According to the Department of Ecology, there are thousands of abandoned wells in Washington State. If you come across an old or abandoned well on your property, or you wish to decommission your current well, there are specific steps you can take.

Only a licensed well driller can decommission a well in Washington. For the reason outlined above, property owners cannot decommission the well themselves.

To get started, first find a local drilling company that specializes in decommissioning. The Department of Ecology provides a helpful search engine to find a company in your area.

Once you’ve hired a drilling company and worked out a date to complete the work, submit a Notice of Intent at least 72 hours before the work is completed. This can be done simply by filling out this online form. Before you submit the Notice of Intent, speak with your drilling company. Some companies submit this form on behalf of the client.

A fee is also due at the time you submit the Notice of Intent. Currently, in Washington State, it costs $50 to decommission a well (this does not include drilling fees). Fees change regularly, so be sure to check back often. If you live outside of Washington, check with your county or local Department of Ecology for decommissioning fees and requirements.

Do I Have An Old Well on My Property?

Often property owners are unaware that there is an abandoned well on their land. If you did not receive a well disclosure or any indication that a well exists on your property when you purchased it, then how do you know if you have a well that needs to be decommissioned?

Some common things to look for when surveying land for a well include:

  • Depressions in your lawn
  • Pipes sticking out of the ground
  • Well houses or small, unused sheds
  • Concrete tiles
  • Plywood or brush covering holes in the ground

These are just a few of the items that help property owners detect abandoned wells. Another way to find old wells is to look at past deeds, paperwork, or water rights connected to your property. If your land was once farmland or used to raise livestock, there is a good chance an abandoned well lives on your property.

Decommissioning the Right Way

Professional well decommissioning ensures your well is safely sealed and capped, protecting your land and groundwater for future generations. Tacoma Pump and Drilling proudly serves residents and businesses in the Pacific Northwest with both well drilling and decommissioning. To learn more about our decommissioning services or to receive a quote, contact us today!