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Eye On Boise

Wed., Oct. 28, 2009, 11:59 a.m.

IDWR: Report abandoned wells

The Idaho Department of Water Resources is asking for the public's help to identify improperly abandoned wells, after a hunting dog fell 270 feet into one near Twin Falls, an accident the dog barely survived. "Wells that have not been properly abandoned can be deadly hazards to animals and humans and can contaminate Idaho's groundwater," the department said in a news release. Bob McLaughlin, department spokesman, said there's no estimate of how many such wells could be out there. "They've been sinking holes in the ground since before Idaho was a state," he said. "That's kind of what we're asking, is if people stumble across a hole in the ground that appears to be a well, let us know. That way we can track it down ... and get it decommissioned." Many domestic wells are about six inches in diameter, the department said, but irrigation wells can be as large as 24 inches in diameter. Said Tom Neace, groundwater protection section manager, "I'd say there could be hundreds out there - we don't really know." Idaho's required permits for wells since 1987; there are 158,766 registered in the state's database, plus an estimated 100,000 more active wells that preceded permitting.

In addition to possible accidents from people or animals falling down the wells, abandoned wells pose a danger to underground aquifers by funneling chemicals and other pollutants down into the groundwater. Groundwater is the source for 90 percent of Idaho's drinking water. To report an abandoned well, call the department at (208) 287-4800.




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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.