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Thread: Old well contaminating new well?

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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    Default Old well contaminating new well?

    I just had a new well drilled because of ongoing problems with my old well. My new well is only 35í from my old well. I noticed that the water level in my old well dropped considerably after the new well was drilled. I am worried that the new well is just getting its water from the old well. Itís still too early to tell whether I am going to have the same issues but so far I am very worried that I just wasted a lot of money to move a problem 35í further on my property. If I plug the old well am I in danger of losing the water in my new well?

    Some of the problems with the old well were the casing was not seated into the bedrock. I had a camera dropped and you could see the void before the bedrock started. The water tested positive for total coliform as well as was extremely reddish-brown with lots of particles. At its worst I could only take a shower and flush the toilet a couple of times without changing the filter. There were many times I was changing filters every few days.

    I tried to have the void sleeved off and that seemed to help things considerably for a while as far as the reddish-brown material. I did not have it re-tested during this time. The sleeve didnít hold and water was leaking over the top and I am sure underneath as well. I eventually thought I would drill a new well instead of spending the same amount over years trying to fix the old well. The only problem now is I am very concerned that all of that stuff is just flowing 35í further into the new well.

    Does anyone have any advice? Should I have the old well plugged and take a chance of losing my water? It really seems like that old well should be plugged but the well drilling company never mentioned it during any of the discussions I have had. I am not een sure what is involved in that. Should I not be concerned yet and just run the water for a few weeks, even though the water level is obviously MUCH lower in my old well? Any advice is appreciated.

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    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    I am not a driller, but if the old well is leaking as you stated, it could contaminate that vein of water. That vein of water might be the same vein that the new well it taking water from. For that reason, it seems to me that the old well should be properly plugged & abandoned.

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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply. Is plugging a well ever a DIY project or should that be something that the well driller should do? It was never discussed with me, which after reading a little bit about abandoned wells in general, seems like it should have been. Also, is there any danger of losing the supply of water to the new well by plugging the old well? Again, after reading a little it seems like that would be a very low probability but I am not sure.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    You should have bought water treatment equipment to treat the iron and Coliform bacteria in the original well.

    No disposable cartridge filters are designed to do any more than trap dirt and/or improve taste and odor problems. Taste and odor removal means the filter has carbon in it and bacteria love to live in carbon because it provides al the food they can eat and a great place to thrive in.

    You should have tested after the liiner was installed and now after the new well has been 'drilled'. You can't really know anything about bacteria without a water test.

    Yes the new well is getting the same water as in the old well, and probably some from the old well since the static water falls when using water from the new well or has dropped since the new well was drilled.

    I'd like to know what the void was and how the casing wasn't into bed rock.

    The void sounds like a cave with rock above and below or your well would have/should have collapsed years ago.

    Anyway, you usually can't stop Coliform bacteria by fooling with liners or a new well because the source of the bacteria can be miles away from your property, especially with rock bore type wells, or caused by your own septic system or land use. Or the neighbors'.

    Well drillers really should know this stuff but many seem to not know or they couldn't care less as long as you pay their bill. Kinda like doctors'n lawyers, candle stick makers, ya know; or some water treatment dealers.

    Why has there been no water tests done on the water from the new well? Hopefully you aren't ingesting or bathing in this 'new' water without testing, or you are assuming it is of the same poor quality as the old well.

    BTW, water treatment costs a lot less than a new well. Online you can buy all you need for about $1500 delivered. Local for like $3000. I think the driller(s) was only interested in making money off you. New wells never come with a guarantee of water quality and I suspect you were told that but went along with it anyway. The fact is that most new wells will need some type of water treatment equipment.

    Plugging the old well probably isn't required in your area or the driller would have wanted to do it. I don't think it is a DIY type job. Plugging the old well is not going to get you better water quality IMO. A water test comparing the old to the new would tell you.
    Last edited by Gary Slusser; 01-08-2011 at 09:32 AM.
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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    I should elaborate a little bit. The reason for drilling a new well wasn’t just for the coliform. I assumed the coliform was getting in because ground water was being introduced into the well due to the fact that the casing stopped 2 feet above the bedrock. That’s the void I was referring to. On the cam you could see boulders in that void so maybe the driller thought the bedrock was there. There is also the very real possibility that I screwed up collecting my sample that tested positive for coliform because I did not disinfect the tap. I don’t drink the water and never have.

    The well has been bad since I moved in at the beginning of 07’. It improved after sleeving off the top portion of the well. Very recently though it had gotten, very, very bad. To the point where just from filling the small pressure tank a brand new white filter would turn dark brown/red and plug. It varied from that to changing filters every 3 days. I also have a spin down sand separator filter and broke 3 of them in the last 2 months. This has been going on for a couple months. I don’t know much about water treatment systems but I can’t imagine that any water treatment system would be able to handle the kind of stuff that was being pumped from that well. It was a critical issue that needed to be addressed. I should also point out that the pump was 25’ from the bottom, so it wasn’t sucking sediment from the very bottom of the well.

    There are 3 well drilling companies around here and they all seemed like they were guessing in regards to my issues. There are really no true water experts where I live, or at least I couldn’t find any. Plenty of people wanted to sell me expensive water treatment systems without so much as looking at the water though. I am hoping I didn’t make a mistake by going the route to have a new well drilled but again, it had gotten very, very bad and something needed/needs to be done. Others in this area have good drilled wells so I would think my chances would be good as well.

    The well was just hooked up yesterday so maybe I am worrying too soon. Although there is no doubt that the static level in the old well dropped dramatically so that is definitely a concern. When watching it earlier today when pumping I did see the water being disturbed as well so there is definitely a connection. That sleeve in the old well failed so all that stuff I was trying to prevent from entering the well is still at least in part getting to the new well.

    Another odd thing is most everyone I talked to blamed my problems on iron but my water test only showed an iron level of 1.4 mg/liter. If I remember correctly 1.2 was normal so to me that didn’t explain why I was plugging filters and had pure brown/red water coming from my well. It was a “clear” sample that I had tested back in 07’ though during one of the periods where the water was running fairly clean.

    Thanks again for the replies. This is all new to me and the more info I can get the better.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    You're working under incorrect assumptions. so forget what you think you know and hold an open mind. There is no such thing as normal iron content. And that 1.2 or 1.4 ppm is more than enough to cause your problem. The liner made it worse.

    Disposable cartridge filters were never meant to be used for whole house filtration of iron problems. Back washed filters are and can be built in any size needed with a multitude of different media.

    Coliform bacteria contamination can lead to serious problems and you need to treat the water for it. And rarely does it come from a contaminated faucet tip.
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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    I really need to retest for coliform. I tested shortly after I moved in and have since then shocked the well a couple of times, installed the liner (which didn't seal properly), and now the new well which was clorinated after they hooked everything up.

    I just want to understand. You're saying that with a 1.4 ppm that all of the particles that were flowing from that well could have just been oxidized iron? It looked like sand after it dried (light brown) up and felt like clay when it was wet. There was a LOT of it. Most people that thought it was iron backed off when I told them that the iron tested at 1.4 ppm/liter. What kind of water treatment system would be used to treat a problem that severe? The well only produces 8gpm also, if that matters.

    What is involved in plugging an old well by the way? It's a 120' well. What are the typical costs? If I have it done I want to ensure that it is done properly. I think no matter what I should plug the old well at this point.

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    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    Around here, the sealing of a well must be documented and the procedure approved by the health dept/inspector. A drilled well is most often filled with bentonite and limestone chips and then capped with 20 feet of cement grout.

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    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kg2k View Post
    I really need to retest for coliform. I tested shortly after I moved in and have since then shocked the well a couple of times, installed the liner (which didn't seal properly), and now the new well which was clorinated after they hooked everything up.
    Yes if you do anything that is supposed to improve quality, you must test to see if there was an improvement and if it is sufficient.

    Quote Originally Posted by kg2k View Post
    I just want to understand. You're saying that with a 1.4 ppm that all of the particles that were flowing from that well could have just been oxidized iron? It looked like sand after it dried (light brown) up and felt like clay when it was wet. There was a LOT of it. Most people that thought it was iron backed off when I told them that the iron tested at 1.4 ppm/liter. What kind of water treatment system would be used to treat a problem that severe? The well only produces 8gpm also, if that matters.
    Yes if your water chemistry is able to cause the iron to be easily/quickly converted from soluble ferrous iron into ferric rust particles, 1.4 ppm can make the water so bad you couldn't see noon time sun through a glass of it. And again, you didn't test after shocking etc. so you don't know what the iron content was since you moved in. You assumed it was clay, but it can be rust. Or IRB (iron reducing bacteria). Was the residue clear to black slimy at all, if so that is IRB. If IRB you must kill the bacteria, you can not filter it.

    Was there ever an odor to the hot or cold water?

    Shocking water with iron in it makes the water discolored. Repeated shocking can make the problem worse, especially with steel casing. And then there is bacteria that produce slime and if all are not killed, in some cases and they then have a protective coating they live in/under that gets hard and chlorine can not penetrate it.

    The type of filter would be a mixed bed or single turbidity mineral filter that backwashes automatically.
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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacher_chick View Post
    Around here, the sealing of a well must be documented and the procedure approved by the health dept/inspector. A drilled well is most often filled with bentonite and limestone chips and then capped with 20 feet of cement grout.
    I don't think there is any regulation around here, or at least not that I can find. I am in NY. What worries me is having someone do it and do it incorrectly.

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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Slusser View Post
    Yes if you do anything that is supposed to improve quality, you must test to see if there was an improvement and if it is sufficient.


    Yes if your water chemistry is able to cause the iron to be easily/quickly converted from soluble ferrous iron into ferric rust particles, 1.4 ppm can make the water so bad you couldn't see noon time sun through a glass of it. And again, you didn't test after shocking etc. so you don't know what the iron content was since you moved in. You assumed it was clay, but it can be rust. Or IRB (iron reducing bacteria). Was the residue clear to black slimy at all, if so that is IRB. If IRB you must kill the bacteria, you can not filter it.

    Was there ever an odor to the hot or cold water?

    Shocking water with iron in it makes the water discolored. Repeated shocking can make the problem worse, especially with steel casing. And then there is bacteria that produce slime and if all are not killed, in some cases and they then have a protective coating they live in/under that gets hard and chlorine can not penetrate it.

    The type of filter would be a mixed bed or single turbidity mineral filter that backwashes automatically.
    The residue has not been black, always red/brown and light brown when it dries which looks just like sand. I have gotten slime in the toilet tanks though. There is quite a lot of black residue when I drain my hot water heater, which I do at least a couple times a year but that is typically the only time I see black. There have been a few periods where the water smelled pretty bad but they have been infrequent and lasted typically a month. I think it smelled more when running hot but that may be in part to the steam rising up. Mostly the water smells just fine.

    What tests would you recommend I get and how long should I wait before I test? I think originally I got a coliform test and an iron test. I am not sure if there is a separate test for IRB or anything else that I may not know to ask for. Also, should I wait until I have the old well sealed before I test?

    Thanks again for your help.

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    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    If you needed a permit for a new well, there is a required procedure to destroy the old well. Find it and follow it from the health department.

    Its pretty obvious you need to close the old hole. Lots of reading about the 'how to's' on the web. THEN start cleaning up the new well.

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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ballvalve View Post
    If you needed a permit for a new well, there is a required procedure to destroy the old well. Find it and follow it from the health department.

    Its pretty obvious you need to close the old hole. Lots of reading about the 'how to's' on the web. THEN start cleaning up the new well.
    I didn't need a permit. I don't know what the drilling company needed. I know they're supposed to provide me a drilling report.

    I did search from some info about plugging an abandoned well but really couldn't find anything real substantial.

  14. #14
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kg2k View Post
    The residue has not been black, always red/brown and light brown when it dries which looks just like sand. I have gotten slime in the toilet tanks though. There is quite a lot of black residue when I drain my hot water heater, which I do at least a couple times a year but that is typically the only time I see black. There have been a few periods where the water smelled pretty bad but they have been infrequent and lasted typically a month. I think it smelled more when running hot but that may be in part to the steam rising up. Mostly the water smells just fine.
    Clear to black slime anywhere is SRB. They can cause odor problems, mostly in the hot water.

    Quote Originally Posted by kg2k View Post
    What tests would you recommend I get and how long should I wait before I test? I think originally I got a coliform test and an iron test. I am not sure if there is a separate test for IRB or anything else that I may not know to ask for. Also, should I wait until I have the old well sealed before I test?
    Iron, hardness, pH, manganese if possible and Coliform bacteria at least. If you shock you should wait for 7-8 days after the smell of chlorine has disappeared.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

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    DIY Junior Member kg2k's Avatar
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    The drilling company is going to come and plug the old well probably some time this week. They are going to use a bentonite clay product to fill the old well. He mentioned it was manufactured by Baroid Industries so I am assuming it's a product called Hole Plug. There don't seem to be any regulations regarding plugging an abandoned well around here, which is surprising.

    I guess really at this point I will have to wait a couple weeks before testing. Thanks for the info on which tests to request. It still looks like I will need an iron filter at least. I will keep you updated.

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