Opinion/Editorial (577 words)
Inspect Your Well Cover and Protect Your Family
Tom Burack, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Commissioner
After a long cold winter, when we’re all suffering from cabin fever, most folks like to spend time outdoors. Usually this means cleaning up from old man winter’s uninvited and unforgiving trespass upon our carefully landscaped yards. Spring is the time for surveying the damage and planning the new year’s projects. Spring time is also a good time to inspect your well. You’re already in your yard and it’s hard to avoid seeing that unsightly steel pipe or concrete cylinder sticking out of the ground. In reality though, that unsightly well head is one of the most important parts of your home. It’s your water well, which provides the water your family drinks!
Most people don’t think much about their wells until the pump fails and they don’t have any water. Then it quickly becomes an emergency. Ben Franklin once said, “When the well’s dry, we know the worth of water.”
This spring, take a little time to inspect your well while you are out there in the yard, and protect your family. Make sure time, weather, or inadvertent damage hasn’t created a threat to your home water supply. Here’s a list of things to look for:
1. Make sure the top of the well is at least eight inches above the ground surface. Wells near or at the ground surface may become contaminated by surface water during spring runoff or a heavy rain event. Old wells in pits should be uncovered and raised above ground surface by a licensed professional.
2. All wells are required to have a cover. Check your well cover to make sure no holes or cracks are visible and the cover is secured to the casing. New state codes require well covers to have a gasket, o-ring, or other seal, and a screened vent to prevent unwanted insects, snakes, rodents and other small furry animals from entering the well. Many of the older flat topped covers with three set screws are not sealed and do not effectively keep out critters.
3. Make sure the electrical conduit exiting the well cover is mechanically secured to the cover. Commonly, a one or two inch opening is created during construction, or over time, by the weight of the backfill pulling on the conduit in the trench, which was excavated for the water line and submersible pump wire. This opening attracts insects, mice and snakes looking for a cool dry place on a hot summer’s day. Electrical conduits that have pulled away from the well cover should be repaired and a water quality test performed by a certified lab.
4. If your home has a dug well, inspect the concrete cover and tiles for holes or cracks. Dug wells should have a concrete cover that is difficult to remove by virtue of its weight to prevent children or unauthorized persons from gaining access to the well. Wooden covers are prohibited.
The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has a guidance document for well owners for inspecting the condition of wells and protecting wells from contamination. Go to www.des.nh.gov and, using the “Search DES” function, search for “well inspection checklist.”
For additional information about wells you can refer to several DES fact sheets at www.des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/dwgb/index.htm.
If you have a specific question about wells and state well codes, call Rick Schofield in the DES Drinking Water and Groundwater Bureau at 603-271-1974.
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