Decommissioning Abandoned Wells


An abandoned well is one that is no longer in use. All abandoned wells are health and safety concerns. They can lead to contaminated groundwater and pose extreme risk to children, adults and animals. Improperly secured wells as small as eight inches in diameter have been known to trap people, causing severe injury and even death.

Where are abandoned wells commonly located?

  • Often found in old pump houses, storage sheds, old detached garages, and small building structures on the property.
  • Hand dug wells are often in lowland areas near surface water.

What signs can a property owner look for to determine if there’s an old well?

  • A steel well casing (with a welded or bolted cap on top) extending above ground (typically 6 inch diameter)
  • Old concrete or brick-lined structures at ground surface
  • Old steel well casing and other piping/hoses extending above ground, or up from pump house floor (May appear to be a drain pipe) 
  • Old remnants of water system components on site (i.e. pumps/small motors, hoses, and pressure tanks)
  • Depressions in ground, often with defined outer edge
  • Any voids/openings in flooring of pump house structure (i.e. hollow sound under floor)
  • Wooden or cement hatch-like openings to subsurface vaults and well heads. (often outlined in flooring of pump house structure)
  • Old brick/cement lined fire pits in the yard may be an old well that may or may not have been filled in completely

Where can a property owner find records of old wells?

  • Health Department microfilm records and old site plans may show the location of an old well that may have been replaced with a more current replacement well.
  • Walk through the property. Properties being redeveloped (with proposed new well) very likely had an old water supply serving the homestead.
  • Check Washington State Department of Ecology website for records of wells that may have been constructed and decommissioned on the property.
  • Contact neighbors that have lived in the area for many years.

By state law, certain procedures must be followed to decommission (secure) an abandoned well. If you own a well that is no longer in use, you are responsible for decommissioning it. In addition, state law says that any person who violates the regulations in decommissioning or constructing a well can be held accountable.

Follow these steps:

  • Contact a licensed well driller. Call the Washington State Ground Water Association at (360) 757-1551 for a referral.
  • Complete a Health Department Well Decommissioning Application.
Follow these Well Decommissioning Guidelines to secure any abandoned well on your property and protect yourself, your family, and your groundwater.

For more information call (253) 798-2885.