Friday, October 11, 2013

Public safety: Watch your step!

“Abandoned Wells: A Hidden Danger” Ecology video now on-line

by Lynne Geller, Water Resources Program

Abandoned well hidden under piece of plywood
Every year, across the state, people and animals fall into abandoned water wells. These falls usually result in injury, and sometimes death. There are thousands of these wells across the state. Most are leftover from Washington’s agricultural days and the post-WWII housing boom.

Unfortunately, we usually find out about the existence of an abandoned well after there is an incident. Wells were not recorded with the Dept. of Ecology until 1973, so no central record is available.

New video available about this “hidden danger”

As part of our continuing efforts to protect public safety, Ecology’s Well Construction and Licensing Office has created a short YouTube video “Abandoned Wells: A Hidden Danger.” The video:
  • Describes the problem
  • Shows how to properly fill in a well, called “decommissioning”
  • Explains the landowner’s legal responsibilities
  • Provides leads for finding abandoned wells on your property.

Probably the most famous well incident was Baby Jessica, an 18-month old who fell down a well in 1987, in Texas. That well was only eight inches in diameter and about 22-feet deep. She was trapped for two and a half days, as the world watched. She did eventually recover from her injuries.

This doesn’t just happen to “other people”

As recently as August, a 68-year-old Spanaway man fell down a 20-foot well when the concrete floor of his shed gave way. He and others had been in and out of that shed for years, never knowing there was an abandoned well under the floor. He was successfully rescued and hospitalized for two days with minor injuries. He was lucky.

Falling into abandoned wells does not just happen to “other people” – the threat may be in your very own backyard. Learn more to help protect yourself, your children and your animals. It could be a matter of life or death.

For more information

Ecology websites:

Contact Bill Lum, the Well Construction and Licensing Program Coordinator at 360-407-6648;; or well construction staff at any of Ecology’s regional offices.

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