The abandoned artesian well plugging program

Uncontrolled, improperly constructed or deteriorating artesian wells can have an adverse impact on the quantity and quality of water in aquifers (the groundwater source) and other water bodies.

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s abandoned artesian well plugging program is designed to assist well owners in complying with the Florida law that requires well owners to control discharges from artesian wells by properly plugging the wells and otherwise limiting the flow to only the amount of water needed for an intended use.

The district actively encourage public participation in identifying problem wells and offers assistance in abandoning wells through a cost-share program, technical guidance and oversight of licensed well contractors. The district has actively worked with other agencies, local governments and the public to detect, evaluate and control artesian wells.

An artesian well (also known as a free-flowing well) is a well that has been drilled into an aquifer in a location where the underground pressure is great enough for the water to rise inside the well. In some cases, the water is under enough pressure to rise from the aquifer to the land’s surface without using a pump.

Old free-flowing wells typically tapped a deeper portion of the aquifer that may be susceptible to an increase in salinity at some locations. As a well ages, deterioration of the well casing occurs, which can allow poor quality water to move upward into fresher zones used for drinking water supplies. Proper plugging of these wells helps to prevent contamination of our water supply.

Free-flowing wells can potentially waste many millions of gallons of water per day and may also act as a conduit for sources of contaminants to enter the aquifer. Properly abandoning a well helps prevent these impacts. The process of abandoning a well involves a site visit and well inventory, correspondence with the land owner and governments to formalize participation, temporarily capping the well, geophysical logging of the well and permanent well abandonment by a licensed well contractor.

Abandoned wells are plugged by pumping grout through a PVC pipe or drill rod, which is lowered to the bottom of a well. The cement is pumped until it reaches land surface. Costs to abandon a well can vary depending on the size and depth of the well and the plugging method required, but it generally costs (districtwide) several thousand dollars to properly abandon a well.

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