Abandoned Well Hazards

Abandoned Well Information

Nearly half of all Illinois residents and 65% of community water systems rely on groundwater for domestic use. Industry and agriculture also depend on reliable supplies of groundwater. More than one billion gallons of groundwater are used each day in Illinois. Abandoned wells are groundwater hazards. These wells are direct routes for pollutants on the surface to reach the groundwater. If abandoned wells are sealed, these routes are eliminated as a threat to the groundwater.

Abandoned wells are also safety hazards. If a person or animal falls into an abandoned well, the well owner is responsible and liable.

What does the law say about abandoned wells?
The Illinois Water Well Construction Code states that an abandoned well “is no longer used to supply water or in such a state of disrepair that the well or boring has the potential for transmitting contaminants into an aquifer or otherwise threatens the public health or safety.” The code also requires abandoned wells to be sealed within 30 days of their abandonment.

Abandoned Well Sealing Application


Ten Good Reasons to Seal Abandoned Wells

1. Groundwater Protection:

Abandoned wells act like a direct channel for contaminants above ground to move into the aquifer. Soil and its biological inhabitants have a remarkable abillity to break down most potential groundwater contaminants. Many of Illinois’ older abandoned wells have no casing, which allows contaminants in or on the surface to pass directly into the well, almost like a funnel. Since 1965, all wells are required by the Illinois Water Well Construction Code to have at least ten feet of casing, assuring that groundwater will travel through at least ten feet of soil before getting into the well. When contaminants enter a well, they circumvent the normal filtering action of the soil layers. Then, the contaminants can enter into the aquifer and pollute the groundwater.

2. Safety:

Abandoned wells are hazards for people and animals. These wells are potential dangers because they may be open holes in the ground, covered by unsecured objects, or in disrepair. As a result, there have been a number of cases in which people have fallen into wells. Once an abandoned well is properly sealed, there is no possibility of falling into it. A sealed well is safe.

3. Water Supply Protection:

Many communities use groundwater as their source of drinking water. An abandoned well acts like a direct route for contaminants to enter an aquifer. Sealing abandoned wells protects both your water supply and other water supplies because it prevents groundwater contamination from passing through this route.

4. Pesticide Use:

Over application of pesticides can result in the contamination of groundwater. Follow the label directions when applying pesticides. Pesticides, as well as other contaminants, can enter an aquifer directly through dilapidated or open wells rather than leaching through the soil. Sealing abandoned wells can certainly help prevent many types of aquifer contamination, including contamination due to pesticides.

5. Peace of Mind:

Sealing abandoned wells brings peace of mind by preventing both accidents and groundwater contamination. Responsible well owners and residents can have peace of mind that these problems do not occur. They protect anyone that comes into contact with the well and the purity of the groundwater.

6. Potential Liability:

Under the Illinois Groundwater Protection Act of 1987, a landowner can be liable for groundwater contamination which may be caused by an abandoned well. In addition, the Illinois Water Well construction Code states that the owner of a well should seal it within thirty days of its abandonment. A landowner can be held liable if these laws are ignored. An unsealed, abandoned well can lead to either an accident or groundwater contamination.

7. Aesthetic Value:

Abandoned wells are not a pretty sight. Many are covered by concrete, rocks, or left completely uncovered. They may also be marked by a casing or pipe sticking upwards. All of these common indicators of abandoned wells can detract from the aesthetic value of your property.

8. Restoring the Environment:

One of our most important resources is our groundwater. To insure safe groundwater for future generations, we must sustain and safeguard this resource today. The sealing of abandoned wells or unused water wells will have an immediate and long-term impact on the protection of these resource. Seal all abandoned water wells and restore our environment to its safe and natural state.

9. Responsible Transfer of Land:

Under the Illinois Water Well Construction Code, a well must be sealed within thirty days of its abandonment.

If a buyer purchases a piece of land and later finds out there was an abandoned well on the property, the buyer would be responsible for sealing it. A responsible transfer of land should include the notification of the presence of all wells. The buyer will acquire additional costs and potential liability due to the presence of an abandoned well.

10. It’s the Law!:

The law requires that abandoned wells be sealed. The Illinois Water Well Construction Code (Section 920.10) states, “The owner of a water well, boring, or monitoring well shall assure that such well is sealed within thirty days after it is abandoned and when the well is no longer used to supply water or in such a state of disrepair that the well or boring has the potential for transmitting contaminants into an aquifer or otherwise threatens the public health or safety.”