Photograph of  a loose, unsanitary well plumbing system exposed to surface water runoffr  © DJ Friedman How to Protect Wells from Groundwater Pollution
How to Protect Groundwater from Surface Pollutants &
How to restore a well to service after area flooding


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How to protect a drinking water well from common sources of ground water / well water contaminants.

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Protecting Your Ground Water Supply [From Contamination]

Well depths and types (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesThis EPA text describes types of activities in your area that can create threats to your water supply. It also describes problems to look for and offers maintenance suggestions. Sources for more information and help are also listed.

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[Editing for clarity by DF are marked by brackets or italics] Initial Source: EPA 816-K-02-003 January 2002. Quoting the EPA: If your family gets drinking water from your own well, do you know if your water is safe to drink? What health risks could you and your family face? Where can you go for help or advice? This pamphlet helps answer these questions.

The sketch at left showing how deep or shallow wells tap aquifers is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.

When Building, Modifying Or Closing A Well

  • Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction or modification
  • Slope well area so surface runoff drains away
  • When closing a well:
    • Do not cut off the well casing below the land surface
    • Hire a certified well contractor to fill or seal the well

Preventing [Well Water Contamination] Problems

  • Install a locking well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well
  • Do not mix or use pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, and other pollutants near the well
  • Never dispose of wastes in dry wells or in abandoned wells
  • Pump and inspect septic systems as often as recommended by your local health department
  • Never dispose of hazardous materials in a septic system
  • Take care in working or mowing around your well

Maintaining Your Well

  • Each month check visible parts of your system for problems such as:
    • Cracking or corrosion,
    • Broken or missing well cap,
    • Settling and cracking of surface seals
  • Have the well tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other contaminants
  • Keep accurate records in a safe place, including:
    • Construction contract or report
    • Maintenance records, such as disinfection or sediment removal
    • Any use of chemicals in the well
    • Water testing results

After A Flood - Well Water Contamination Safety Warnings & Health Advisories from the U.S. EPA

  • Watch out: Avoid fatal electrical shock hazards: stay away from the well pump, electrical controls, wiring, etc. while the building is flooded or is still wet, in order to to avoid electric shock.

    Do not try to turn on the pump nor other well or water treatmenbt equipment before the electrical components have been dried and inspected. Keep in mind that flood-bourned mud and debris may have both contaminated the water well and may have clogged or damaged the pump - so just turning on the pump risks damagign it.

  • Do not drink or wash using water from a flooded well to avoid becoming sick. See
  • Turn on the well pump & controls once they are safe, dry, restored. Get assistance from a well or pump contractor to clean and turn on the pump. In addition to the need to restore the water pump, wiring, and pressure controls to safe operation, if the well was open to groundwaters it may have become loaded with mud and silt, even sewage-contaminants. If that happened the well will need to be cleaned before it can be restored to use.
  • Flush out the flooded well: After the pump is turned back on, run water from the well until the well water runs clear to rid the well of flood water. If the well casing remained sealed during flooding, restoring the well to service will still involve shocking the well and water piping system and may require water testing for contaminants.
  • Watch out: If the well water does not run clear, get advice from the county or state health department or extension service or from your local well driller and water treatment company.

    Watch out: in some cases, just clearing the well casing and piping themselves of floodwaters may not be enough. In periods immediately after area flooding local groundwaters and some aquifers may themselves be contaminated. If authorities in your area confirm that this is the case, you may need to test the well water to see if it is safe to use, or a water treatment system (such as a chlorinator) may be needed. See
    For additional information about restoring a water well to operation after a flood see

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