Upper Elkhorn NRD

Water Well Decommissioning Program

Plugging Procedures  |  Plugging Materials  |  Sealing the Well  |  Documentation and Reporting  |  Additional NRD Requirements  |  

NRD Cost Share |  Water Quality |  Home Page | Well Decommissioning Form

     An abandoned well is any well that has served its usefulness and is no longer needed. These wells have been ignored and even forgotten over several years and have recently become a very big issue.  Abandoned wells when not properly sealed are a direct link for contamination to our groundwater.  Not only does an abandoned well pose a threat to groundwater but they also pose a safety hazard for humans and animals.  Irrigation wells and some dug wells have a large enough diameter that a small child could fall through.

     Thousands of wells have been abandoned over the years.  With the concerns for our groundwater, many state and local agencies are taking an active role in properly plugging these wells.  The Upper Elkhorn NRD is no exception an has created a cost share assistance program for the proper plugging of abandoned wells.  This program provides cost share assistance for the proper plugging of abandoned wells according to Title 178, Chapter 12 of the Department of Health regulations governing water well abandonment standards.

     When abandoning a well there are certain procedures that must be followed to comply with state regulations and NRD approval.  These will be described for you throughout this page.

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Plugging Procedures

     Before plugging a well the cooperator needs to gather the information on the construction of the well and the geological setting of where the well is located.  Possible sources for this information might be the original well drillers' log, the well registration filed with the Department of Water Resources, well drillers familiar with the area or the University of Nebraska Conservation and Survey Division.  All materials must be removed from around the well site, this would include pumps, pipes and any other obstructions which would inhibit the proper placing of all plugging materials.  The total depth and diameter of the well is also required to determine the amount of lugging materials needed.  You should also measure the depth to the standing water or static water level in the well.

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Plugging Materials

     When plugging the well two different materials are used.  One is a sealant to provide a watertight barrier against seepage of contaminants into the groundwater.  The second material used is a filler which consists of sand and gravel and is used to fill the portion of the well where a sealant is not required.  Cement and Bentonite are the most common sealing materials used.  Bentonite is a special type of clay that expands when it is wet to provide a resistant seal.  Before any materials are used, chlorine should be placed in the well the disinfect any standing water.  A chlorine concentration of 200 parts per million is recommended for the standing water in the well to be efficient.  Wells drilled into unconfined aquifers shall be filled at each separating water bearing zone and at the top of the water by lugging with concrete or bentonite.  Each plug shall be a minimum of 5 feet thick and shall extend to the walls of the casing.

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Sealing the Well

    All cased water wells to be decommissioned must have an upper plug to prevent surface and near surface contaminents from entering the well casing. Click here for Proper Well Abandonment Procedure graphic.

Documentation and Reporting

     The Department of Health regulations require that records be kept on the type of materials used, the quantity of materials used, where the materials are placed, and the mix specifications of grout used.  Any registered wells that are abandoned must be reported to the Director of the Department of Water Resources within 60 days of the abandonment.

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Additional NRD Requirements

     Anyone wishing to apply for cost share assistance to properly plug an abandoned well should sign up at the NRD office between January 1 and September 30 of each year.


NRD approval is required before any well abandonment procedures begin.

Wells must be abandoned by a licensed well driller or a licensed pump installer according to the 

      Department of Health and Human Services Regulations.

The landowner has 90 days to contact the well driller and complete work, after receiving an approval letter from the NRD.

All below ground pipe and any above ground pipe, tower or on-site obstacles that may impede the 

      plugging activity must be removed at the cost of the landowner.

NRD inspection of the properly abandoned well is required prior to payment and may be required

      that a district employee be on site during the actual plugging process.

A description of the abandonment process and a copy of the bill listing the materials used must be 

      submitted prior to payment.

The Upper Elkhorn NRD requests a marker indicating abandoned well site and a listing of the type 

      of marker used.  (Optional)

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NRD Cost Share

     The NRD will pay 75 percent of approved well decommissioning costs up to a maximum of $500 for all water wells other than hand dug water wells, which shall be eligible for up to a maximum of $700:

For further information or to request an application form contact
Upper Elkhorn Natural Resources District
301 North Harrison Street
O'Neill, NE  68763

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Last updated 09/26/2014
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