An accident last week in northeast Iowa involving a two-year-old girl who fell down a well sheds light on the problem of finding and capping abandoned wells in Iowa. Brett Parker oversees the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ program to find and cap the wells. He says they’ve plugged about 45-thousand wells since the program started in 1987, and continue to plug about three thousand wells per year. Parker estimates there’re some 65-thousand wells remaining. He says the type and number of wells depends on what area of the state you’re in. He says the large diameter well the girl fell into in Black Hawk County is rather rare in that area, he says most of the wells in northeast Iowa are the small diameter. He says most of the large diameter wells are in southern, southwest or northwest Iowa. Parker says the influx of water towers and water lines from rural water systems has increased the number of abandoned wells. He says the rural water supplies replace water wells, and he says that happens most often in the areas that have the large diameter wells that haven’t proved to be a dependable water source. Parker is the only person overseeing the well program for the state, as most of the action happens at the county level. He says the state’s role is supplying grant money to counties to help them plug the wells. He says it’s not realistic to have any agency try and go around and find all the abandoned wells. Parker says some wells are left unplugged because the owners of the property think they may need it someday. He says reluctance to plug the wells is part of the problem, but the bigger problem is that the location of the well is often forgotten throught the years. Parker says you should contact county officials if you have a well you want plugged.
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