What is Well Abandonment and Why is it Important?

Well Abandonment

What is Well Abandonment?

Technically, well abandonment refers to the filling and sealing of an unused well with an approved, impermeable material such as bentonite chips, concrete, or neat cement.  A well is also abandoned, by definition, if it is in such a state of disrepair that using it to obtain groundwater is impractical or a health hazard. Unused and improperly abandoned wells pose a significant threat to groundwater, and also, they are a safety hazard. There are reports of people falling into improperly abandoned wells every year. At C&J Well Company, we take well abandonment seriously and are more than capable of handling even the most challenging jobs. Let’s take a closer look at what well abandonment is and why you should care about it.

Well Abandonment Policy 

Well Abandonment

The purpose of well abandonment is to restore the geology to its original hydrogeologic condition. It is also essential to carry out proper abandonment procedures to prevent physical hazards, avoid entrance pollution, and prevent the intermixing of aquifers. According to the Indiana code, a well is considered “abandoned” when it has been out of use for five or more years, and it must be plugged at least one year after it has been abandoned. While well drillers and pump installers are responsible for proper well construction and maintenance, property owners are responsible for having  their abandoned well plugged. If the well was abandoned before 1988, the property owner could plug it themselves. If it was abandoned after 1988, a licensed well driller or pump installer must plug the well.

Well Abandonment Protection

Why do we abandon wells? Because an abandoned water well is potentially a conduit between the ground surface and an underground aquifer, a water-bearing layer of sand and gravel or porous or fractured bedrock. Groundwater can be contaminated if floodwater, farm wastes, or spilled chemicals can flow down from the surface through or around the casing of an abandoned well. Plugging prevents the migration of gases, liquids, and solids up or down the well. Unused and improperly abandoned wells pose a significant threat to groundwater. Many states strictly enforce the regulations concerning proper well abandonment procedures. Laws may vary from state to state.

Well Abandonment Products

Indiana requires an abandoned well to be plugged with very specific materials. Neat cement, with not more than five percent (5%) by weight of bentonite additive, bentonite slurry (which can include polymers to retard swelling), or pelletized bentonite or medium-grade or coarse-grade crushed bentonite. Bentonite pellets (commonly called hole plug) are clay derived from volcanic ashfall deposits that swell when wet. It is mined in the western U.S., mainly in Wyoming, and is available in bags from well suppliers. The cost of a well abandonment depends on several factors, the primary ones being the depth of the well and whether the pump is present and needs to be pulled. 

Well Abandonment Process

When properly abandoning a well, pumps, drop-pipes, pump rods, packers, wire, check valves, and all other debris or obstructions should be removed from the well. Next, the well depth and diameter must be measured to calculate the necessary amount of plugging material. Different types of wells require other plugging methods. If the well was abandoned after 1988, it must be plugged by a licensed well-drilling contractor. After configuring the amount of product needed, it is poured slowly into the well to avoid bridging. After the well is filled with bentonite, it is sealed with a threaded or welded cap. Finally, a well log is completed and submitted to the local health department, the well owner, and the state.

Well Abandonment Professionals

Make sure you hire licensed well & pump technicians to get the job done right. Indiana regulations require wells to be plugged with impervious materials like bentonite, which prevents groundwater contamination from floodwater, farm wastes, or spilled chemicals. C&J also sends a record of the abandoned well and plugging procedure to the Indiana Division of Water. If you have recently connected to city water or have had a replacement well drilled, call C&J, and our licensed professionals will plug your old abandoned well according to the Indiana code.