NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Abandoned and open water wells are, quite frankly, all over East Texas, and they can be dangerous.
If these abandoned wells are not properly covered, they could potentially contaminate ground water sources, and someone could even fall into one.
However, there is a new program to help some East Texas landowners with abandoned wells.
"The well, it's an open, old hand dug well," said Tommy Wheeler, the environmental health services director for Nacogdoches County. "It's not secured. It's a real nuisance."
Wheeler found the man and the program wanting to cap off potentially dangerous open water wells. He's Jackie Risner, director of the Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District.
"I've known twice in my lifetime of children falling into them or people walking into them that didn't have an upper tile," Risner said. "They were just covered with an old board or something."
Many are hand-dug wells. One is located in an open pasture, near an old vat used to dip cattle against flies and illnesses. Others lie near old homesteads and are marked by overgrown flowers. Some are filled up with silt and present no danger. Others throughout Nacogdoches and Angelina counties present extreme safety and health issues. Wheeler can fine negligent landowners, but both men are choosing to work with landowners to cap the wells.
"There is a procedure for that. A landowner can do it themselves if they have a tractor with a front end loader where they can get some clay," Risner said. "The water does need to be disinfected. There are some procedures, so we'll talk to them about it, let them know and work with them and try to get these health and safety issues taken care of."
"We're all after the same goal, and that's to protect the health, safety, welfare of the public," Wheeler said.
A campaign to inform the public about the program begins now. Land owners are urged to cap their well to prevent injury, disease, or even death.
Landowners can be fined up to $2,000 a day for not capping off abandoned wells. Officials with the Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District said they would, instead of fines, prefer working with landowners to correct the problem.
The cooperating partners in this effort include the Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District, the Agrilife Extension offices in Nacogdoches and Angelina counties, the commissioners courts in Nacogdoches and Angelina counties, and the Nacogdoches County Health and Environmental Services.