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Feature Article - April 12, 2007

Keep your well caps well in sight

By Mary Jane Conboy, PhD., P.Geo Hydrogeologist, Well Wise

We all understand that we need to do a bit of maintenance on our car in order to keep it running properly, but most people don’t recognize that their water well also needs regular maintenance.

It has been shown that 89% of wells across Ontario are in need of repair. Wells in Ontario are aging; there are 10, 000 20,000 new wells installed every year, but the majority of homeowners have wells that were installed before provincial standards were put in place.

Well owners need to understand what to do to keep their wells in good working order and how to ensure that their water is safe and sustainable.


Wells should be finished above ground to keep surface water and debris from entering through the top of the well. The area around the well needs to be managed to protect the structure and the water supply. Many people don’t like the look of their well so they try to disguise the well by putting a structure over it, by altering the well or by growing gardens or bushes around the well. Once the licensed well contractor leaves the site, there is often very little direction given to homeowners on how to protect their water supply. Wells inspected through the audit process of the Healthy Futures Upgrade and Decommissioning Program showed that within a year, clients used spray paint on the cap and casing; built elaborate wooden structures to encase the well head; built raised gardens; cut the casing to below ground level; loosened the cap for easy access (for excessive chlorination); backed up into it with a vehicle; and placed many other makeshift structures over the well for either protective function or decorative purposes. The Well Aware Guided Self Assessments (GSA) found roughly 20% of the wells observed were obscured by gardens or deep-rooted plants that could impact the integrity of the well seal. The connection between these alterations and the quality of the water is not made by many of the clients. The responsibility of well owners through Regulation 903 to keep their well accessible at all times for cleaning, treatment, repair and visual inspection is not understood. All wells require regular maintenance to enhance their performance It is really important to recognize that there is a connection between the well itself and the water quality that you can expect. Many times I have removed structures or tarps placed around wells only to find that mice, snakes or other little critters have made their homes on top of or adjacent to the well.

If you have an old well on your property, you need to have a licensed contractor plug and seal the well. Wells must be maintained or properly decommissioned. Well contractors use special sealants and machinery to ensure that the old well will no longer be a structural risk or a conduit that could impact the quality of groundwater.

For more information on how to care for your well, visit www.wellwise.ca, where you can order a copy of “Well Wise: A comprehensive consumer’s guide for private

water wells”.

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