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Russ Tell, senior environmental specialist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, points to two main goals when plugging up old wells: protecting the aquifer and safety.
Water can flow down through an old, unused well and contaminate the water in an aquifer and impact the water quality of nearby wells if the well is not properly plugged.
THIS IOWAWATCH INVESTIGATION WAS SUPPORTED BY A GRANT FROM THE FUND FOR INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
Sherry Storjohann, environmental health specialist who tests wells in Crawford and Carroll counties, said this can be hard to understand and hard to explain.
“If they’ve got two or three wells on their property and a couple of them aren’t being used, but they’ve still got one that is servicing their family, those other wells are impacting that well,” she said.
“Basically, the logic I can make them understand is that a well is sitting out in the middle of a field, and I’m like, ‘Do you really want to continue to farm around this?’”
Old wells, which property owners may not even be aware of, also can represent a safety risk, especially for older, large diameter wells that people can fall into.
“Wells are a hazard that you may not be aware of and we want to eliminate that hazard,” Tell said.
Tell said a trend of owners plugging old wells peaked around 2008 or 2009.