Abandoned Well FAQ

Q:    Who can plug a well?

A:    Current regulations state that only the well owner or a registered well drilling contractor may plug a well.  In addition, the well owner can plug the well only if it serves his/her residence.   A registered well drilling contractor (or his/her employee) may plug a well at a residence, farm, industry, business, or other public water supply.  It is recommended that well owners hire drilling contractors to plug their abandoned wells.  Contractors have the knowledge, experience, and equipment necessary to properly plug wells. 


Q:   Why is it important to get the "stuff" out of the well before plugging?

A:    If drop-pipes, pumps, packers, drawdown seals, or other similar obstructions are  left in the well, it will be much more difficult for the plugging material to reach the bottom of the well.  Obstructions tend to cause "bridging" of the plugging material inside of the casing, resulting in an uneven or ineffective seal.  Most well owners do not have the training or equipment to remove obstructions.  We recommend that a registered well drilling contractor be contacted to do this type of work.


Q:    Do I have to plug my old well when a replacement well is installed?    

 A:    If the existing well is being used and functions properly, it is not required to be plugged at the time a replacement well is installed.  However, if the existing well is not going to be used or if it is not operational and the owner does not intend to repair it, then the well must be properly plugged.  If a well is going to be used in the future, but is temporarily taken out of service at the time a replacement well is installed, it must be securely sealed and must comply with all current isolation and construction requirements.


Q:    Who is responsible to plug an abandoned well?

A:    The well owner is responsible to plug the well or to arrange for a registered well drilling contractor to do so. 


Q:    How much will it cost the plug my abandoned well?

A:    Costs vary depending upon the well depth, diameter, location, and other factors.  A shallow driven well may be plugged for as little as $50. The average cost for plugging a well in Michigan is $500. Your costs may be reduced by having your old well plugged at the time the replacement well is drilled or at the time you connect to municipal water service.


Q:    What types of plugging materials are used?

A:     Well type and site geology determine the material requirements for plugging abandoned water wells.  For example, flowing wells and wells that terminate in bedrock are required to be plugged with  cement grout. Shallow, small diameter wells may be effectively plugged with bentonite chips.  It is important to understand material requirements and plugging techniques before beginning a well plugging project.


Q:    I am connected to municipal water.  How do I know if I have an old well on my property?

A:    A simple look around may help identify an abandoned well.  A pipe sticking up out of the ground, a concrete slab or manhole cover, a ring of rocks or bricks, a hand pump or hydrant, a windmill, or an old shed may indicate the presence of an abandoned well.  Some abandoned wells are difficult to find.  They may be hidden among weeds or brush or may be buried below grade.  A depression in the ground or a  spot in the yard that is continually wet may provide clues to where an old well may be located.


Q:    What do I do if I can't find my abandoned well because it is buried?

A:     Locate where the old water line exits the home or building.  You can use either a metal detector to follow the line out or dig down and follow it to the well.  Usually, older buried well casings are located 4 to 5 feet below grade,  within 25 feet of the home.  Neighbors or senior citizens who have lived in the area for a long time often know where old wells are located.


Q:    Who can I contact for further information and/or assistance?

A:    You can contact your local health department, a registered well drilling contractor, your county soil conservation district, or the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy at 517-599-6257.