Orphan Well Program Overview

Contact: Paul Jankowski, 517 284-6832


    Introduction An unplugged abandoned well and its associated facilities can be a hazard to the health and safety of people living near it, or it can cause pollution. An old well or storage tank might be a source for oil or salt brine to pollute fresh groundwater, or to discharge at the surface impacting the soil. 


    Michigan Orphan Well Program 
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality - Office of Oil, Gas, and Minerals (OOGM) worked with the oil and gas industry for the passage of Act 308, P.A. 1994, which established an Orphan Well Fund within the Michigan Department of Treasury. The Act authorizes the DEQ director, as the supervisor of wells, to expend money from the fund to plug abandoned or improperly closed oil, gas, or brine disposal wells; to conduct remedial response activities; and to perform site restoration. Before initiating corrective actions, the supervisor of wells must determine that the owner is unknown or insolvent or that there exists an imminent threat to public health and safety. Revenue for the Orphan Well Program comes from a severance tax on the oil and gas industry. Two percent of the severance tax revenue, but not less than $1 million, is credited to the fund annually. 

    Identification of Orphan Wells 
An orphan well or facility is one where the owner is unknown or insolvent. If you believe there is a well on your property, or discover what you believe to be an abandoned oil or gas well, you should report it to the OOGM.   When the OGGM is notified about an old well, an investigation occurs to determine if it qualifies as an orphan well. If approved, the well is placed on a prioritization list. Wells are plugged in relation to greatest need based on several scoring factors (i.e., leaks, population density, groundwater, age, structural integrity etc). 

If you are a landowner, there is no cost to you for the resulting plugging and site restoration. The Orphan Well Fund is supported solely by industry.  


Paul Jankowski - MDEQ-OOGM. Technical Services Section. Geologist Specialist. Orphan Well Unit