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Old well. What to do with it?

 
Posts: 15
Location: Arnheim, MI
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So, we've got an old open stone-lined well on our property.  As one might expect, it's full of water.

It's quite a distance from the current house, and really much too far from where we intend to eventually build.  The issue at the moment is that the little deteriorating cap shed that some previous landowner set over the well is more of a problem than a solution.  It's got a large hole cut in the top, allowing wildlife to get in and nest.  I suspect it's covered in lead-based paint.  It's poorly seated so critters can get in under it.  Plenty of feathers and bird droppings have accumulated on the stone rim of the well, as the birds shelter beneath the shed.  It's a mosquito breeding ground, in season.  The whole mess is also very close to the property line, and the neighbors on that have side children of all ages that would fit quite nicely in an abandoned well.

Obviously none of that is ideal.  My initial impulse is to seal the well opening off with some synthetic mosquito netting, and then build a better shed cap that will keep the critters out.  That's sort of a mid-term solution, because eventually it'll all fall apart and need maintenance.

Should I fill the well in?  Seems a shame after somebody went to so much work to dig it, but it's downhill from pretty much everywhere we might need water.  Any thoughts?
 
Posts: 34
Location: Northport, NS. Canada
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Some properties a place for a well is hard to find. If this is the case do all you can to preserve and rebuild it to it's glory. A good water source is the #1 priority on all non-serviced locations.
 
Geoffrey Chew
Posts: 15
Location: Arnheim, MI
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Lorne Martin wrote:A good water source is the #1 priority on all non-serviced locations.



This is a fair point, and I don't disagree.  Figuring out how that principle applies to this situation is the tricky bit.

We have a drilled well at the existing house, about 100 meters from the stone well.  Contamination entering the groundwater via the open well is inevitably going to find its way into the drilled well.   Preserving the "good" quality of the groundwater has to be my short term priority, I think.

I'm not against repairing or rebuilding it, even if it's just for the sake of historical preservation, but it's unlikely to happen any time soon.
 
gardener
Posts: 1460
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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A couple of inexpensive feeder goldfish from a pet store should take care of your mosquito problem.  Putting them in there wouldn't harm anything.  If you ever wanted to get them out, you'd need to get a little net and dip them out.

I'd be more concerned about the liability of having it open and tempting for little people to come and explore.  It shouldn't be too difficult to build a fence around it, keeping it for future use.
 
Geoffrey Chew
Posts: 15
Location: Arnheim, MI
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Interesting idea.  Goldfish might not make it here.  Our average lows are well below the range that the internet seems to think is suitable for them, even during mosquito season.

I'll have to look into locally adapted species and see if any of them could make a go of it living in a well.
 
Marco Banks
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Goldfish are tough little suckers.  They might only make it for he summer, but you'd be surprised to see how tough they are, overwintering under ice even.  If they only lasted for 3 months, it would still be a cheep solution.

Perhaps there is some country vector control office that might offer another fish that is better suited for your region.  Down south, they go around and drop little larva-eating fish in abandoned pools or swampy places where the mosquitos breed.  Gambusia affinis is known popularly as "mosquito fish" and commonly used throughout the midwest and southern states.  They are for sale all over.  
 
Posts: 292
Location: SW Missouri
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How deep do you think it is? If less then 50 feet I don't think it could ever contaminate your bored hole well. In missouri the well drillers must drill and case the well 80 feet and seal around the casing with grout to prevent shallow water contamination. I have two neighbors with hand dugwells. One is in a condition like yours, its rock lined and in the summer it's an absolute snake pit.  If I were you I would get a large piece of plate steel to cover the opening and stake around it so the plate couldn't come off.  Leave it that way until your ready to rebuild and use it.  The other neighbor dug his well by hand in 1956 and lined it with culverts stood on end. If you drink the water it makes you feel sick. Hes been drinking it since 56 and now he is 96 or 97 and sharp as a tack. Still drives and fixes clocks. Apparently the water takes getting used to, but doesn't affect your longevity.

Regards
Eric Hammond
 
Geoffrey Chew
Posts: 15
Location: Arnheim, MI
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Eric Hammond wrote:How deep do you think it is?



That's a good question, and I don't have an answer.  I'll have to go drop a line in it and find out, once Fenrir gives us the sun back.

The house was built in 1940, so it could be at least that old.  Our water table is measured in inches at some spots on the property, so it's quite possible that there's no physical connection between the two supplies.  Unfortunately our drilled well isn't in the online state database, so I don't know how deep that is either.  Mysteries abound.
 
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build a greenhouse around the well.. use cement around the outside edges to secure the greenhouse walls to the ground and keep the critters out if you make a cement floor around the well.. make an Atrium.. grow some plants like Ivy around the side of the well .. make it a pretty indoor space to relax in.. the mosquito problems can be resolved once you make the well all closed off in a more secured indoor space by putting up sticky fly trap strips, bug zappers and citronella candles the birds and existing critters will probably take off once you start building the green house because of all the disturbance building things causes.. wild animals and birds should scatter due to the noise and all the rummaging around and disturbing the space that you'd be doing
 
master pollinator
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I have many, many hand dug wells on me and they are a huge liability. My neighbor's child fell in a hand dug well and was nearly killed by the event.

Beyond personal liability, there is also contamination liability. These are literally holes into the aquifer and can make for excellent conduits for contaminants to run.

I love my ancestors too, and all they have done for me, and yes on many occasions I have tipped the block back from the hand dug well when the power was out, put a 5 gallon pail on a rope and flushed my toilet for a few days with the water. But the cap on that well is all cement and well done.

In your case, I am wondering if you can use a 4 foot concrete well casing and cap and secure it that way? They are not really that expensive, a sturdy over the long term, yet would still provide access should you need it.

 
Posts: 649
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Water is such a precious resource, it adds value to property.  Keeping everyone safe from it is important.  A solid, thick, wood plank floor over it, inside of a locked shed, allows you to use it as you want with safety.  Pumping it into tanks for storage is a great way to use it as you need it.  Pumping can be solar or electric on demand.  

 
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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I would keep the well, cap it with plank or concrete but with a lockable hatch . I don't see the diameter anywhere but you can get pre-cast round concrete tank covers that would likely fit.
You can also put a fence around it and a small warning sign.
As suggested by others, use the well , pump some water out for watering etc . This will clean the well.
I doubt it will contaminate ground water , especially after capping.
Well usually get contaminated by rainwater running off the surface and down the hole. Therefore the sides of the well must be higher than the surrounding ground.

I like Darlene's idea, to make a greenhouse/ winter garden out of it. It is really quite an asset if developed a bit.

Any concerns about contamination can be addressed by getting the well water tested for potability.

 
Posts: 28
Location: Central NY, Eastern Edge of Oneida Co. ,Town of Trenton
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Now that the snow is gone I can show off the solution that the previous owners did here. I think it was a popular solution because I have seen several other wells in the area with a similar cap.

in a nut shell it is two concrete slabs about 2 in. thick that when placed next to each other make a square that extends about 6 in. past the stone rim of the well on the flat sides. there is a  ~ 9 in. X 4 in. piece of concrete that is a removable access that is centered over the well between the two slabs. Everything is just set there and the weight keeps it all in place.

Lets see if these pictures work...
hand-dug-well-cover.jpg
[Thumbnail for hand-dug-well-cover.jpg]
I sure hope this works
 
Mark Deichmann
Posts: 137
Location: Maritimes , Eastern Canada
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THanks for posting the pic!

That was the sort of cap I was thinking of, so at least you already have that and its not" open" posing an immediate threat to anyone. Thats a good cap solution . The beauty of it is you can easily waterproof the concrete surface if it is leaking but its likely fine.

Its probably not letting much surface water in since it looks pretty well situated.

I would still recommend getting the water tested , althought this costs probably $60 . Might be nice to know.

That would also help you decide how to use the water. Valuable resource .

I have kept the old shallow well here, which still is a back up and great for when the power is out or for watering to spare the drilled well in drought.
 
Geoffrey Chew
Posts: 15
Location: Arnheim, MI
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Thank you to everyone who replied.  You've given me food for thought and some possible solutions.

My apologies for wandering off in the middle of the conversation.  I got distracted by a business project that has since failed spectacularly.  

So...silver lining, more time to read threads on Permies.  
 
Posts: 100
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If time or expense are issues, (and the well's not too wide) you could cut the bottom out of an IBC tote and drop it over the well. It could be secured by driving a t-post at each corner and wiring it down. Or weld a ring or a chain link to each post to wire or chain to. This of course assumes removal of the old shed, or at least taking it apart for repair.
 
pollinator
Posts: 255
Location: North central Ontario
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Oh boy... I can tell you what we would do here. If there was a stone lined well we would lift off the cover and insert sections of concrete well tile usually 32 or 36 inches in diameter 24 inches high that interlock. Usually a backhoe does this. you build up the well until 24 inches above ground place a cap on it with a cement access hatch like those above. You backfill the void with gravel or sand to act as a filter membrane and to keep frost from pushing the original well in. With those measures in place you can usually get a good source of water. Here we use filtering and UV lights to keep it safe. Dug wells have fallen out of favour mostly for health concerns but the water quality of drilled wells can be a very expensive crap shoot. Here they tend to be rich in iron leading to a sulphur smell and sometimes rich in uranium. Then there is the energy for pumping. My piston pump from the dug well 110ft away uses less then 300 watts per hour to deliver 2.5 gallons per minute. A deep well pump could use 2-4 times that depending on how deep it is hung...
Cheers,  David
 
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