Even though the drinking water in Neenah comes from surface water, pollution of our groundwater is a concern for all of us. That’s because many people in Wisconsin get their drinking water and many farmers irrigate crops via groundwater.
Groundwater can become contaminated through many activities. Old or unused wells that are not property abandoned can pose a significant risk to ground water quality. Wells that are left open and unused are a risk of having contaminants drain down into them and into the ground water system.
Old drilled wells can develop cracks in the steel casing that can let contaminants through. Older dug wells were often lined with brick or field stone that does not provide a good barrier to prevent contaminants from reaching ground water.
Once contaminants reach the ground water it is difficult, if not impossible to remove them. Contaminated ground water often does not just effect a single well but can effect the water quality in other wells nearby.
Old and unused wells also can pose a safety hazard. Older dug wells can be up to 6 feet across and 50 feet deep or even deeper. Serious injury or worse could result if someone or a pet accidentally fell down into an old well.
The purpose of private well regulation is to help prevent contamination and ensure public health and welfare by assuring that unused, unsafe, or non-complying wells are properly maintained or abandoned.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources mandates that all municipalities create and enforce a private well ordinance. The City of Neenah Code Section Sec. 21-134- Well Abandonment, details the requirements which may be met for the continued use or abandonment of private wells within the city. If a private well was not abandoned at the time of connection to the municipal supply or you discover a well on your property, it is your duty to report this to Neenah Water Utility staff. Neenah Water Utility allows for the permitting of private wells for non-potable uses, such as car washing or lawn watering. It is strongly recommended that well water not be consumed at any time or used for the irrigation of fruits or vegetables used for human consumption as high levels of arsenic have been found in the groundwater in this area.
If your well was not abandoned at the time of connection, the well must either be abandoned per Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 812, or a well operator’s permit must be obtained. A renewal for the permit may be made, provided the owner reapplies for the permit prior to the expiration date. If renewal does not occur prior to the expiration date, then the well must be abandoned immediately.