Abandoned wells pose threat in San Diego County

Residents urged to locate and destroy unused wells and pits.

provided by the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health

n conjunction with the 1998 Water Awareness Campaign and the California Groundwater Association, the County Department of Environmental Health has launched a public information drive to alert all property owners to the potential health and safety risks of abandoned wells, pits, and bore holes.

"The danger of these open wells is a county-wide problem," explained Dan Avera, Director of the County Department of Environmental Health. "There may be hundreds of abandoned wells and pits throughout the region. Many are hand-dug wells 25- to 100-feet deep and covered with little else than plywood. It's a miracle we haven't had accidents like those in other areas where children have fallen into a well and rescue workers labored round the clock to save them. Our goal is to prevent accidents like these from happening here in San Diego."

In addition to the safety risks of exposed pits and abandoned wells, experts warn that in some instances these areas have been used to dispose of hazardous waste which threatens to contaminate the groundwater, a vital source of drinking water and irrigation for many residents. These contaminants include engine oil, paint, used tires, and other chemical wastes which have been discovered in wells on rural, as well as suburban, properties throughout the county.

To protect yourself and the area's natural water resource, the County Department of Environmental Health encourages you to:

  • Walk your property. Whether you own, lease or rent, know what's on your land parcel. Watch for signs of a pit or well which may be covered with sheet metal or plywood. If you find one, clearly mark it.
  • If you use it, cover it. Your well water is a valuable resource so make sure it has a sufficient cover to prevent anyone from contaminating it.
  • If you don't use it, properly cap it or destroy it. To prevent accidental injury and possible groundwater contamination, contact the County Department of Environmental Health or a licensed well driller contractor to arrange an inspection of your well. You will receive information on required permits and proper destruction methods.

Pass the word. Tell your neighbors, friends, co-workers, community groups, and church members to check their properties for abandoned wells.

  Contact: Mike Devine, (619) 694-2121.