Kalamaoo County

Environmental Health


An abandoned well is a well no longer in use or in such disrepair that groundwater cannot be obtained. Wells that pose a health risk also meet the legal definition of an abandoned well. Each year many wells are abandoned when households connect to municipal water systems or have new wells drilled. Proper plugging of unused wells is required by The Groundwater Quality Control Act, Part 127, 1978 PA 368. To protect the health and safety of the community and yourself from liability, abandoned wells must be properly plugged. The well owner is responsible to assure proper abandonment.

Problems associated with abandoned wells
An abandoned well that is not properly plugged (sealed) can be a hazard to the community and the environment. The abandoned well can be a direct pipeline for introducing contamination into groundwater. Runoff water carrying bacteria, sediment, fertilizer, pesticides or other chemicals may flow directly into groundwater through the improperly abandoned well. Accidental or intentional dumping of waste materials down an unplugged pipe will contaminate groundwater.

Finding an abandoned well
Look for:

  • Pipes sticking out of the ground
  • Pipes sticking through the wall or floor in the basement
  • Cement pits
  • Windmills
  • Old crock, brick, or stone structures
  • Old hand pumps

To help determine if an abandoned well exists on your property, consult:

  • Kalamazoo County Environmental Health
  • Former property owners or neighbors
  • Old photographs
  • Fire insurance plan drawings

Homeowner plugging abandoned wells
In most cases, shallow (less than 30 feet deep) driven wells and large diameter dug wells can be successfully plugged by a well owner with the proper information. However, a poorly sealed well is no better than an open well. Simply capping an abandoned well is not an acceptable alternative. Before attempting to plug the well, review state well plugging regulations and make sure that you understand all steps. Never use waste materials for well plugging. The use of improper materials can lead to groundwater contamination. The most common well plugging materials used in Michigan are prepared bentonite grout, dry bentonite chips or pellets, and neat cement.

Seek a registered well driller to plug the following well types:

  • Drilled wells
  • Flowing wells
  • Wells greater than 30 feet deep
  • Wells where water is seeping around the casing
  • Wells which produce gas
  • Wells where pumping equipment is difficult to remove

Cost of well plugging
Cost varies depending on well depth, casing diameter, and the amount of plugging material required. Having an old well plugged at the same time a new well is being drilled or when connecting to a municipal water supply can reduce costs.

Steps to plug a water well

  • Contact Kalamazoo County Environmental Health to request a copy of the water well and pump record (if available). The well driller files this record after completing the well. It provides information such as the well depth, casing diameter and depth of static water. Check out the historical water well records at Wellogic.
  • Follow the Michigan Water Well Construction and Pump Installation Code. Note: Simply capping a water well is not an approved plugging practice.
  • Completion of the Abandoned Well Plugging Record is required by the Groundwater Quality Control Act and must be submitted to Kalamazoo County Environmental Health.

Municipal water connection
The Groundwater Quality Control Act, Part 127, 1978 PA 368, as amended, states "A well that is abandoned when municipal water is installed shall be plugged pursuant to the provisions of these rules." A well owner is responsible for ensuring unused wells are properly plugged. A registered water well driller is recommended to perform this work.

A private water well may be retained for irrigation purposes if all isolation and construction code requirements meet The Groundwater Quality Control Act. The City of Kalamazoo and the City of Portage may require installation of a reduced pressure back flow preventer (RPZ) on the municipal service line. Keeping the water well in service may require periodic testing at the well owner's expense. This is to insure the protection of the city water supply. Please contact the City of Kalamazoo or the City of Portage offices for specific requirements. A letter of intent to keep the well for irrigation purposes is required by our office. Please send the form Well Irrigation Confirmation (PDF) to our office after connection to the Municipal Water Supply.

More information

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