Dealing with Abandoned Wells February 5th, 2019

Posted in: Watershed Moments Wells

The RM of Taché sealed an abandoned well in Lorette with surprising results. Peter Skjaerlund, Manager of Public Works, says he inadvertently discovered an abandoned well in 2015 while on a site visit with the municipality’s then CAO, Dan Poersch. Both Peter and Dan noticed ponded water at a property located alongside the Seine River. They observed that the ponded water was disappearing into an unusual ground-level depression. That’s when Peter and Dan found an abandoned well filled with debris. The ponded water was draining into the old well casing and through the debris into the groundwater below.

Abandoned wells can be harmful to the quality of groundwater and drinking water supply. That’s because they can provide a direct path for contaminants and pollutants to enter the underground aquifers that supply water wells. Old unused wells can be hard to find. They may be buried under soil or hidden in long grass. Sometimes, the only evidence is a ground level depression or an old well casing. Permanently closing an abandoned or unused well involves sealing the well with grout to stop the upward flow of water through the well.

The RM of Taché sealed this abandoned well through the Seine-Rat Rat River Conservation District’s (SRRCD) Abandoned Well Sealing Program. The SRRCD funds 100% of the cost up to $2,000 for sealing old or unused wells. The abandoned well in the RM of Taché was subsequently sealed in fall 2015 with some unexpected benefits to the local water quality.

A nearby municipal well was showing the presence of total coliform bacteria at the time the abandoned well was sealed. Water quality testing results on the municipal well indicated that there was likely a source of total coliform in the area around or inside the well. The source remained a mystery until the water test results showed that total coliforms in the water began to disappear on its own.

Peter noticed that the water quality in the municipal well began to improve after the abandoned well was sealed. Peter dug a little deeper into this mystery and learned that the natural path of the groundwater flowed under the ground from the area of the abandoned well towards the direction of the municipal well. Surface water entering the groundwater through the abandoned well carried total coliform bacteria to the nearby municipal well.

The bacterial count in the municipal went down to zero total coliforms in a few short months after the abandoned well was sealed. The well continues to meet provincial standards for safe drinking water to this day. This successful abandoned well sealing project shows how easily contamination can enter our ground water supply. Water contaminated through abandoned wells can quickly spread to other drinking water sources and cause serious declines in water quality

Peter said, “Sealing the abandoned well was a huge improvement for us in water quality. It was exciting to see the bacterial results go down after we pinpointed the problem to the abandoned well.”

He also said, “We sometimes overlook the benefits of local programs when their outcomes become noticeable in the long-run. The result of this project became apparent soon after we sealed the problematic well. I encourage people to seal their abandoned wells because I saw firsthand how surface water can directly affect the quality of our groundwater and drinking water supply.”

The SRRCD is accepting Abandoned Well Sealing program applications. You can download an application today by visiting our website or contacting our office today.