License required to fill old wells

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008
— After June 1, rural homeowners must hire a licensed professional to fill and seal old wells.

The rule was approved in 2005 and will help keep old wells from leaking contaminants into groundwater, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources hydrogeologist Ton Riewe said.

“We have seen some botched jobs done by private owners,” Riewe said.

The cost to have a well filled and sealed—a process called abandonment—depends on the depth and type of well, Riewe said. Grants are available to help cover the cost.

Well specialists use two methods to fill and seal old wells, he said. One is by filling the well with bentonite chips, which are hard pieces of mined clay. Workers fill the well with the chips from the bottom up and soak the chips with water, causing them to swell 10 times their original size.

Workers also use neat cement grout to fill the well from the bottom up.

In either case, it’s important to keep an eye on the old well to make sure the product hasn’t settled and left holes or cracks, Riewe said.

If you’re considering buying rural property, it’s important to have the property inspected to make sure you’re aware of old, unfilled wells, Riewe said.

Even if you’ve lived on your property for a while, it’s a good idea to take a walk and look for old wells, he said.

“It’s way too common” for property owners to be unaware of old wells on their property, he said.


After June 1, rural landowners must have old wells filled and sealed by licensed professionals, but the state has money available to help cover the costs.

To apply for a grant, landowners should get an estimate from a well driller or pump installer. Then visit www.dnr.wi.gov and type “well abandonment grants” in the search field. Print an application and fill it out with the driller’s estimates.

Applications can be mailed to hydrogeologist Thomas Riewe at WI DNR – DG, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI, 53707-7921.

Last updated: 9:12 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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