October 2019 marks the 32nd anniversary of the rescue of 18-month-old Jessica McClure from an abandoned water well in Midland. The infant was trapped 22 feet below land surface for nearly 60 hours.
With that in mind, HPWD encourages all landowners/operators to check their properties for any open, uncovered, or deteriorated wells.
“Open, uncovered, and deteriorated wells are prohibited within the HPWD service area,” said General Manager Jason Coleman.
He added that locating and getting these wells properly covered and/or repaired is an important duty of the HPWD staff.
“There have been two children who have fallen into open, uncovered wells since HPWD was created in Sept. 1951. Both children were rescued unharmed. Proper closure of wells will help avoid dangerous situations like this in the future,” said Coleman.
In addition to potential dangers, uncovered well openings also provide a direct conduit for contaminants to enter the groundwater stored in the Ogallala Formation.
“Open wells can provide tempting disposal places for anything unwanted, which can lead to serious groundwater contamination problems. Once groundwater in an aquifer is contaminated, it is extremely difficult to return it to an unpolluted state suitable for use by humans and livestock,” said Coleman.
Rainfall runoff can also carry pollutants into open wells, especially if the casing and pump have been removed.
Open wells are usually reported by telephone calls and/or emails from the public, or by HPWD personnel conducting field work.
Field technicians carry two sizes of well caps in their pickups. If an open, abandoned water well is located, the field technician will close the well, get a GPS reading on its location, and contact the landowner and/or operator. The landowner/operator has the option to pay $75 for the well cap installed by HPWD or they may remove the cap and close the well themselves. In both instances, HPWD personnel return to the site to make sure the well is closed in accordance with state law and HPWD rules.
“HPWD wants to work with landowners/operators to make sure issues with open, uncovered, and deteriorated wells are handled properly. We appreciate those who have promptly covered or repaired problem wells to preserve life and groundwater quality,” said Coleman.
Additional information about well capping is available at http://www.hpwd.org/well-monitoring