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What it is

Properly sealing private and public water wells that are no longer in use is required under the Ohio Administrative Code. Abandoned wells can be found almost anywhere: on farms, industrial sites and in urban areas. Those marked by windmill towers and old hand pumps are easy to spot. Many lie hidden beneath weeds and brush. These wells are open traps waiting for unsuspecting children, hunters and animals. No accurate accounting of abandoned wells exists for the state of Ohio.

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How it helps

The number of potential contaminants that may enter these wells is unlimited. Fuel, fertilizer, solvents, sewage, animal waste, pesticides and numerous other contaminants have been introduced into ground water through unsealed abandoned wells or improperly sealed wells. If a substance can be dissolved, carried or mixed in water, it has the potential for entering groundwater through an improperly sealed abandoned water well. There are four ways that an unsealed abandoned well could contaminate the groundwater: by intermixing water between aquifers, by surface water entering the aquifer, by illegal disposal of contaminants down the well and by microbial contamination from decomposition of animal bodies and waste products.

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Planning ahead

It is highly recommended that wells and boreholes be sealed by an experienced registered water systems contractor. Private water system wells must be sealed by a private water systems contractor registered with the Ohio Department of Health. No single method and material are suitable for all situations and site-specific conditions may require modifications to normal operations. To ensure that the well owner and driller are prepared, a work plan summarizing what is known about the well and the details for sealing it should be prepared prior to taking action.

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The final step in all of these well sealing procedures is to file a well sealing report with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Soil and Water Resources.

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An overlooked aspect of the water quality discussion is protecting groundwater. Throughout the landscape, there are potential conduits to drinking water underground, and water wells are one of those conduits. Old wells that have been abandoned are sometimes in crop fields. Kellogg Farms, in Ohio, had one of those wells on their property. They worked with a qualified contractor through the local health department to properly remove the old well casing and cap the well. This will eliminate the potential for nutrients and pesticides from getting into the groundwater directly.

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