Cleaning Up a Hand-Dug Well - Homesteading Today
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  #1  
Old 08/01/05, 08:12 AM
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Cleaning Up a Hand-Dug Well

I have a very nice looking stone-walled hand-dug well on my property which hasn't been used in many years. It is the old -fashioned kind, like the kind people would drop buckets into. There is still water there and a spring and creek not more than 60 feet away on either side. Problem is that it has been uncovered all these years. The water surface has a sheen to it, oily sort of. It grosses me out. The heirs of this property have told me the water always tasted muddy from that well (never were any filters on it). My first inclination was to fill it up. But it would be a shame as it is such a pretty well and I could use it to water the livestock (or irrigate if the water tests less than drinkable. So, my questions are, if the water test comes back halfway decent, can the well be cleaned up? Do companies do that sort of thing? All of the tubing looks broken so I would have the expense of repairs, cleaning, and a hand pump. Would be worth it for decent water if the cost is less than digging a new well. This would not be the well providing water to my house btw.

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  #2  
Old 08/01/05, 08:38 AM
 
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I'd get a sump pump in to suck out the water. It would need cleaned out with sediment falling in it. However, this is NOT a job to do by yourself. A team that could start a bucket brigade might work. Also be careful that gases don't build up in the bottom while cleaning it out (you may want to have somebody hooked up with a rope to pull you out if there is a problem.)

I think this would make a perfect well for garden, livestock, etc.

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  #3  
Old 08/01/05, 08:46 AM
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so all the water can be taken out with a pump? I'm not going to tackle that project btw. Just want to know if it can be done.

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  #4  
Old 08/01/05, 08:51 AM
 
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I agree, sump pump it dry maybe power wash the walls, scrub with some bleach to kill bacteria, put some large stone at the bottom covered by smaller stone to keep the mud down. use a pump set a couple of feet off the bottom and you have a nice setup.

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  #5  
Old 08/01/05, 10:01 AM
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This is a well that could be cleaned up for livestock use but without treatment the water won't pass a bacteria test (I treat water and run a state water lab).

Pump it dry with a sump pump and garden hose (do it yourself, no reason to pay someone else at this point!). When it's dry, measure how deep it is (piece of string with a weight on the end will be close enough). Come back the next day and see how much water is it. Pump it out again. Repeat a couple times and figure out if there is enough water flow to make it worth messing with.

If you decide to mess with it, let it fill up and dump bleach in. Lots of bleach (50 PPM would be great), so you smell the bleach. Come back the next day and make sure you still smell the bleach (stronger than a pool), if not add more. Let it sit a couple of days and pump it out again (someplace where if the grass dies you don't care). You might be amazed at what comes off with no elbow grease and no safety risk to you.

Don't get too worried about the bacteria tests for water for the critters. My horses, cattle, sheep, goats and all the babies have all drank out of my creek. This creek drains every storm sewer in town and the waste water plant dumps into it. The dogs wade in it, if it's hot enough, I wade in! Haven't killed anything yet in 19 years!

For safety sake you need to get a lid on it, now. Even a piece of plywood and a concrete block is better than nothing!

Kathie

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  #6  
Old 08/01/05, 10:12 AM
 
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If you are in an area with intrusive regulations on everything you might want to check to see if a dug well is even legal. I remember talking to someone who had some pretty serious problems with a dug well they had on their property. The local government, the DNR and the health department got involved and lawyers were required. Also seemed like they found out they weren't actually legal for human consumption either. I'd kind of keep it quiet as far as the locals go so you don't end up being forced to seal it or something.

That being said, I'm kind of curious as to the response you get as I'm thinking about trying to rehab a couple of old dug wells on my property. Make sure you have good curbing and secure covers on them. Don't want some idiot falling in and suing you. You also don't want some animal falling in and fouling your water. I've seen that happen before.

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  #7  
Old 08/01/05, 06:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littlebitfarm
If you decide to mess with it, let it fill up and dump bleach in. Lots of bleach (50 PPM would be great), so you smell the bleach. Kathie
If you have tendencies toward protecting the environment I would think twice before saturating the water with bleach. Well water comes from caves that have an Eco system. The bleach would kill all life it comes in contact with. If the well has an inlet and an outlet the bleach would continue down the line killing that Eco system as far as it reaches. Also if any ones well is feeding off of that water you may have some very upset neighbors. Food for thought. Carl
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  #8  
Old 08/01/05, 06:37 PM
 
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The advice about pumping out and cleaning the well is very good, but I seriously doubt the typical sump pump will handle the job. Sump pumps are fine for handling most tasks; but for the job you have in mind, a TRASH PUMP would work far better. Not only does a trash pump move more water faster, but it can also handle a certain amount of mud and "trash" (weeds, dead leaves, etc.) without clogging.

As for treating the water with bleach ... many municipalities have switched to treating their water with hydrogen peroxide. It has proven to be more effective and more environmentally friendly than chlorine.

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  #9  
Old 08/01/05, 08:30 PM
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myfirst thought would be to fill it in as this is a vector to aquifers. if how ever the ground slopes away from the well and it has a curb at least two feet above the hundred year flood plain then rehabilitating it is a good idea. if you can get concrete tiles to line the casing with and a lockable vermin proof lid it should remain good . chlorine in large amounts(kathies is a good dose) before pumping is a good idea . how deep a well are we talking? may need a submisable trash pump ,wash down the walls of the well Thoroughly with the bleach water mix. there is little likly hood of it leaking out of the well. water coming from a waste treatment plant should be cleaner than the water it is going into.

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  #10  
Old 08/01/05, 09:20 PM
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Hydrogen peroxide

In the USA they maybe using hydrogen peroxide as an oxidizer (helps with taste and odor) but they are not using it as a final disinfectant. EPA mandates the use of chlorine compounds (free, total, or chloramines) as a final disinfectant. Also the higher grades of hydrogen peroxide must be used with great care (dump some on a pair of leather boots, come back in a few minutes and watch them burst into flames!).

I know treating water. This is what I do for my "real job". Having just finished getting a new water treatment plant into production I have seen more EPA stuff than I want to! 3 days to vacation!!! LOL!!!

I will also say that if you wanted to go ahead and use this water for the house it could probably be done pretty easy with a UV light. Very friendly to the environment but not an option to clean up an old well.

Kathie

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  #11  
Old 08/01/05, 09:32 PM
 
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Saving a Well

Whatever you do, do not fill it in. A source of water for stock, for watering your garden, for washing the car or watering the lawn is invaluable. You can pump water out of a well for about a tenth of the cost of municipal water.

Chances are your well has filled in a bit. I'd second the trash pump idea, and while pumping I'd use a disc or hoe on the end of a long pipe to agitate the bottom of the well so that it would pump out the disturbed mud, silt, sand and whatever else might be down there. Chances are there may be some old bottles, cans, dead cats, etc. Get a bucket scoop and clean it out.

If your well sits in a good water sand you might never be able to pump it dry--a perfect source for watering a garden in dry weather. Thank goodness for a good well.
Ox

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  #12  
Old 08/02/05, 03:16 PM
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Thank you everyone! I have high hopes to use this well now. I will have the water tested and do as you have said. Seems like it won't be too difficult to do myself. Thanks for your input littlebitfarm.

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  #13  
Old 08/02/05, 03:36 PM
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I'd be interested in hearing what you find from the water tests, and what you do, and what your results are. Please post as you continue your well cleaning endeavors!

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