While most never think about it – improperly sealed or abandoned wells pose significant risks to our groundwater quality and are a very real safety hazard for children, adults and small animals.
With these concerns in mind, Sacramento County’s Environmental Management Department (EMD) is continuing its survey program to identify hundreds of these wells to help ensure that they are properly secured or destroyed.
“We find wells on vacant lots, farmland and backyards in suburbs,” said Val Siebal, Director of EMD. “People don’t realize that the runoff water that goes into these wells carries pollutants that flow directly into our groundwater. It’s important that we find them and properly seal them.”
Environmental Management has identified approximately 600 potentially unsecured abandoned wells in the south area of the County alone. These wells can be found on any type of property, even residential homes. Often the wells are forgotten and lost in the tangle of weeds or brush, where an opening as small as 8 inches can entrap small children and animals such as dogs.
Your help is needed to find all abandoned wells to ensure they are secure and safe.
Why it Matters: How Abandoned Wells Impact Groundwater
Sacramento County relies on groundwater to supply approximately half of its water needs. Due to deterioration or lack of maintenance, the runoff water that goes into these abandoned wells can carry bacteria, sediment, fertilizer, pesticides and other pollutants that flow directly down into our groundwater. Many contaminants are not visible from just looking at the water and consumers may not know their drinking water is unsafe. It is essential for groundwater quality that steps are taken now to help ensure there is a safe water supply for County residents, businesses and farms.
Safety Hazard of Abandoned Wells
Children, animals and even adults can fall into abandoned wells causing injury or death. Open pit wells and large-diameter drilled wells are particularly hazardous and often are hundreds of feet deep. It is easy to miss a well opening and a small child or animal may become trapped inside.
How to Make Abandoned Wells Safe
Merely capping an abandoned well or filling it with concrete is not enough to prevent it from becoming a problem. Plugging materials must be strong, durable and free of contaminants. Effective well-plugging requires experience and knowledge of well construction materials and methods. EMD can assist by safeguarding that the proper materials are used and the contractor is trained and knowledgeable.
“Our objective is to get the wells into compliance; either make them active again, deactivate them if they will be used again, or properly destroy them,” Siebal added. “Within the next three years, working with property owners, we want to identify all the abandoned wells and target the most dangerous as high priorities for closure. We’re sending postcards to property owners now and will make follow up appointments with the owners.”
If you know of an abandoned well, or need assistance locating them on your property, leave a message on the abandoned well hotline: 916-875-8532 or email EMDfirstname.lastname@example.org. You may also email for more information, or call, 916-875-8400.