Getting decomposed gunk out of old dug wells : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

On my property, I have 3 old hand-dug wells. Each is about 3' in diameter, and lined with brick. All 3 are in extreme disrepair: Well 1 is about 30' to water, and still has a antique deep-well hand pump in it (I would guess the pump was installed in the 1890's). The lid had been pushed off to one side sometime between 1975 and 1993, when a cousin and I "capped" it using discarded concrete chunks from his porch. When last I looked in, a dead rabbit was floating down there. This well used to serve as the primary water source for the main house (circa 1850). Well 2 is very shallow, with water only 2' below the rim. Not surprisingly, this happens to be the same water level as the pond 10' away on the other side of the dam. This well has an old windmill over it, and provided the water to the horse barn. All the pump machinery was pulled out and dumped on the ground beside the well sometime in the 1950's. This well is completely uncovered, but it isn't very deep either. It is also in the wrong spot for my use (see below). Well 3 is another homestead well, behind the ruins of a great-great-granduncle's homestead. It is perhaps 12' to water, and "covered" with a rusting 30-gallon oil drum stuck diagonally in the mouth of the well. It is next to a underground structure that may be a cistern; it is 3' in diameter, perhaps 8' deep, loosely lined with brick that has collapsed on one side, and has a conical cement cap with a hole 6" in diameter on top. What I'd like to do is get water out of wells 1 and 3. I'm not expecting potability, but I would like to get them cleaned up enough to use a modern pump and extract enough water to use on the trees I've planted. Does anyone have suggestions as to how I can get out whatever muck has fallen in over the last 50+ years? Would I need to contact a professional well driller to tackle this project? Thanks for the help! Paul

-- Paul D. (, September 20, 2001


I dont rightly know who would hire out to do this kind of work. Doubt a well driller would touch it. Remember dug wells were dug by hand, not drilled, although I have seen large wells that were neither dug nor drilled in modern sense. Maybe some unique auger type machine? Anyway the way to clean out a dug well is to rent a big pump and pump them dry, then send somebody to bottom to fill bucket that person at top pulls up and empties. Just like when the well was originally dug. Yes its nasty, scarey work for the guy at the bottom. Make sure you use a solid bucket and good rope. Not good for contents of bucket to hit person below. By way if well is big enough DON'T be tempted to use a gas pump inside the well. You will affixiate whoever goes down there. Most dug wells werent over 40 foot deep, many not over twenty to twenty five foot deep and dependent on ground water. An old dug well may look to have a lot of water, but once pumped out, may recover only slowly or not at all until rainy season. Thats probably why those before you built the cistern storage tank near the one well. Your best hope is if somebody dug one of the wells and hit a year round spring. Hopefully the water table in your area is still high enough so this spring is still active.

-- Hermit John (, September 20, 2001.

Reread your post and might add that well two next to pond would probably work best to water trees since it seems to be fed from the pond. Could also just pump water directly from your pond. Not in any way worried about potability anyways for your use. Know its not well you want to use, but it may be the best.

-- Hermit John (, September 20, 2001.

Is it possible to drive a metal pipe through your dam several feet below water level? There should be sufficient water pressure there to use a hose.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, September 20, 2001.

We had an old dug well which was about 15' deep( 2' dia.) in sandy loam soil. The guy who pumps out our septic tank was able to deepen the well to 25' with his suction hose and we now have good water recovery rate (about 5 gallon per minute). He charged us $100 and took about 2 hours. Thats as far down as his pump would suck, and the well casing still extended deeper than 25' so the well did not collapse..

-- harald(Ont) (, September 20, 2001.

You might try renting a 'trash pump'. If I remember correctly most of them will pass items up to an inch in size.

Otherwise, finding an independant septic tank pumper might be the best choice.

Good luck.


-- j (, September 20, 2001.

pump out the water, as fast as possible,, then,, dig it out,, or use an extended post hole digger,, have even seen people use a grapple hook. If you can get doen there and dig it out with a bucket would work also

-- stan (, September 20, 2001.

Thanks for the helpful answers. The reason why I don't want to use well 2/the cattle pond is because of it's poor location. My fruit tree orchard is at the top of a big hill, and the agroforestry planting is about 200 yards from well 2 as the buzzard flies, but there's a fairly big, but intermittant, stream and a small forest between well 2 and the nearest part of the planting. Hauling water from well 2 would be a 2-mile trip over the roads. Well 1 is right next to my fruit orchard and well 3 is close to the agroforestry site. Among the tools I've examined include a bucket with a trip attachment that releases when you've scooped up some of the bottom, and a mini-dredge intended for sampling mud from riverbottoms. I like the idea of using a septic pumper to clean out the wells. I'll check the phonebook and see if any of them would be interested. Thanks Paul D.

-- Paul D. (, September 20, 2001.

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