NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Officials in Nacogdoches County are warning landowners of the dangers posed by hidden and often overlooked water wells.
Abandoned wells can cause all kinds of accidents; many take place when people or animals fall down the deep holes. The Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District (PGCD) said many accidents can be avoided by properly plugging the wells.
“This is an open hole that goes down into water. Someone’s well down the road there uses that same water,” said John McFarland, district manager of PGCD, as he referenced an abandoned well. “They’re about 36 inches in diameter. It’s brick-lined; it’s an old well. But there’s hundreds of these wells out here."
Aside from the threat of injury or death, McFarland said there are concerns people may mistake wells as empty and throw trash, other disposables, or even worse things down into them.
McFarland shared a story about a murderer confessing to throwing a body in an abandoned well. Another story was told on an unfortunate peace officer falling into an uncovered well while trying to put some loose cattle back in their pasture.
“He’s now 30 feet in the hole and no way to get out. Fortunately, his cell phone was able to text. If his phone had not worked, very likely, might not have been found for days," McFarland said.
Not all tales are that dramatic, but the risk never changes. Nacogdoches County's Environmental Services director Tommy Wheeler watches for the hazards when he inspects septic systems and well sites.
“It’s required that all wells on that property be identified on the plan, the blueprint, the drawing. A lot of them come to me that way, and I see them every week,” Wheeler said.
Rural development has these wells showing up near homes, water systems, kids, and pets. Sometimes, the wells are filled improperly by landowners or developers.
An abandoned well can be handled in several ways. It can be returned to an operable state after making sure the casing and pump are in safe working order, or it can be capped. Another option is to plug the well.
There are professionals who can be hired to do the work.
“There are state regulations on proper disposal. We don’t want garbage or sand or whatever dumped into these wells, that just creates a bigger problem,” McFarland explained.
Materials like clay make for a proper filler to make sure abandoned or empty wells are filled. Over time, the mixture is sure to settle, McFarland said, so it’s important to check on wells every few months to ensure they have remained plugged.
The PGCD will host an Abandoned Well Awareness presentation on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at a location on U.S. 59 near Quail Run Road in Nacogdoches.
For more information about the presentation and landowners who have questions about properly plugging wells, contact the Pineywoods Groundwater Conservation District at 936-568-9292 or the Nacogdoches County Environmental Services.