Found an old well, need advice on cleaning it out


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Old 07-11-14, 07:22 AM
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Found an old well, need advice on cleaning it out

Hey All,

First time here, hopefully you guys have some ideas to help me out!

Last week I started clearing out the backyard of the house I bought about a year ago and after taking down a stone planter box I found a well. There are steel pipes running through out the yard and house that I assume were once fed by this well, but the house is now using city water. The house was built in 1885 and the well has probably been around since close to that time. No one ever told me about it during the home buying process so I don't have any information on it.

When I cleared off all of the dirt/rock/brick from the man-hole cover I noticed that the well casing (the cement around the man-hole cover) was starting to deteriorate. When I opened the top of the well up I found it was about half-way full of rock and dirt that had fallen in and there's a family of Black Widows hanging out in there. The well basin (I'm referring to the area of the well that the pump sits in) looks to be about 8-10ft deep and about 4ft across. There is a ladder for access into the pump but it's covered in rock.

Normally, I would say screw it and fill the well up with dirt and move on, but in my city you are not allowed to drill new wells and we live in an area that is often in drought, so having a well could add a considerable amount of value to my property.

Here's my questions:

How can I get about a half-ton out of the bottom of this well? Is getting down there with a shovel and a bucket going to be the best way?

How can I kill the spiders without compromising the integrity of the well?

Finally, since it looks like it wasn't purposefully filled in, what are the chances that it wasn't capped?

I'm completely new to wells and I would love to be able to use this one for irrigation. Overall water quality isn't my biggest concern, but I don't want to destroy the viability of the well by bug bombing it.
 
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Old 07-11-14, 08:16 AM
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That sounds like a shallow well, and they don't "cap" shallow wells; they just fill them in or let nature cause them to cave in.

If it's less than 33' deep, the pump was probably located elsewhere, and used its vacuum to suck water up; but 33' (2 gravities) is the absolute maximum you can lift water without causing it to boil off.

I'd check with PETA and to make sure the Spiders are not a protected species, or someone's lost pets.

I'm in Real Estate and we have a lot of people who are on municipal water and sewage systems where the sewer charge is based upon the metered incoming water . . . . so if they can orchestrate the use of some form of alternative water source, they can win big time. Well, maybe not megabucks; but it can save some families over a $1000 per year to engage in this kind of behavior . . . . and the water and sewage police haven't yet cracked down on all of them.
 
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Old 07-11-14, 10:31 AM
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Hey Vermont, thank you for your reply.

I did some investigating on how other wells in my neighborhood were constructed (or at least registered) back in the 60's and it looks like 33' deep isn't deep enough for where I am located. Most of the wells in my area are 65-100' deep.

Is it possible that the well was "capped" (is there a better word for that?) when it's that deep? The pump is still in it, so I don't see how they would have capped it off...
 
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Old 07-11-14, 11:13 AM
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I think in cold climates they used to build something called a "well pit" where the pump was located. That was so they could run the pipe below the frost line to the house. That's the extent of my knowledge.

[went to google]

I goggled well pit and found this article: Environmental and Natural Resource Issues

There's tons more pics and info if you google well pit.
 
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Old 07-11-14, 12:05 PM
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Vey,

That looks like the right definition! Thank you

Now, just need to figure out how to get it working again.
 
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Old 07-11-14, 02:57 PM
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I'd check with PETA and to make sure the Spiders are not a protected species, or someone's lost pets.
Vermont, certainly this was tongue-in-cheek. I'd hate to think I would ever check with PETA on anything. Especially which leather shoes to wear with which leather belt.
 
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Old 07-11-14, 04:27 PM
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If a well is more than 33' deep, then the pump has to somehow be made to "push" the water up because suction via a man-made vacuum is no longer an option to "pull" it up.

I'm not a PETA fan, nor do I like spiders; but I do know most all spiders detest light and will always choose to set up their domicile in darkness . . . . so when you begin your activities down there, sending a flood light down a few days in advance should cause them all to seek other living quarters.

I'm in a colder climate and I rely on a shallow well. Mine is only about 8 or 10 feet deep, about 400' from the house, and my waterline is roughly 4' below grade which is usually adequate protection from frost . . . . provided there's a 3' or 4' of insulating snow cover on the ground when it really gets cold. If we have -48F and there's no snow on the ground, and then the power goes out, things can get pretty exciting around here.

My shallow well also has a propensity to draw frogs, salamanders, pollywogs, and some small rodents that don't know how to swim; but we now have a strainer and backflow preventer, so that those guys don't get themselves sucked into that love tunnel called our water line . . . . which could un-nerve the PETA adherents.

Good luck . . . . and don't let the walls collapse on you. And if you take a flood light down there, make sure its plugged into a GFI outlet so that you don'd get electrocuted and drown or something bad like that. Tell a friend where you're working so they can find your remains.
 

Last edited by Vermont; 07-11-14 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 07-12-14, 04:22 AM
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I remember my well on my previous farm. 30" bored. Every time I lifted the lid (with gloves, of course) there she was.......black widow. Scared the bejeebers out of me.
 
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Old 07-13-14, 01:51 PM
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I suspect that there is a 4-6" well in the well pit. If you look at all the well pit info, that's the way they used to construct wells. Depth of the well really doesn't matter as much as static depth and drawdown depth.

Static depth = water level in the well
Drawdown depth = water level while pumping.
Well depth = depth of the hole.

If the drawdown level drops below 25', then pumping to the surface becomes difficult.
 
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Old 07-16-14, 06:58 AM
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I'm not sure if anyone is still watching this thread, but the well is cleared out now. I ended up hiring some help from Craigslist, and he did the in-the-well digging while I moved the dirt a different location. The guy that helped me was an old well technician (or something of that nature) and advised me not to go in to the well since I am too big to be pulled out if something went wrong.

Anyway, have a look at the pictures if you want Now it's time to get this well working!
 
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Old 07-17-14, 08:10 AM
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Wow. Looks good. There is the well right there in the last picture with two pipes going down it. Probably some sort of jet system. That's a what? An 8" well?

I dunno how you would do this, but all the "stuff" has to disconnected and pulled out because it is probably all bad and rotten. Then the well needs to be tested for flow to see if it is worth spending any more money on it. Those pipes in the well are going to be heavy. You will need some sort of chainfall maybe to pull them up.

My concern is that there is usually a reason a well has been abandoned and that is usually because it is not much of a producer anymore. Well go bad after a while.

Then you have some choices. You could put a pitless adapter on it and connect it to the house or a hydrant Or you could extend it up to 18" above the surface and only use it in the summer time for irrigation since it will freeze.

The object is to get rid of the pit. If you googled, you should know why. Even if you are only going to use it for irrigation, it's bad tp pollute the ground water.

In my mind, depending on depth of the drawdown water level either a surface well pump or a submersible is the way to go.

It might be worth having a pro come out and look. He will have the equipment to pull the pipes and test the well.

But you have to decide what you want to use it for. If it's for irrigation, then an average sprinkler head uses ~3 GPM X 6 heads for a decent sized zone = a well that can produce 18 GPM. If it less than that, you have to reduce the size of the zone.
 
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Old 07-17-14, 09:35 AM
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Some jurisdictions want well pits gone and won't allow anything beyond basic maintenance before you're forced to fill it in and drill a new, sealed one.
Are you on city sewer or septic? If septic another issue is distance from that well.

Just a couple things to check into. If that were in my yard I also would want to make use of it. Nice find.
 
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Old 07-19-14, 09:48 AM
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Personally, I would pull everything out of the pit. The pit is considered a confines space and there is always a potential of CO2 or methane build up. I would contact a well drill to see if they could calculate the recharge and if it will satisfy your requirements, I would extend the wall casing and install a submersible pump. I would then fill in the pit and eliminate the pit.
 
 

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