Extension Ag Update
May/June 2003
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Illinois Offers Dollars to Seal Abandoned Wells


Mike Hirschi, 217-333-9410; mch@uiuc.edu, Writer, Doug Peterson, 217-333-9444, dgpeters@uiuc.edu

If you've got an abandoned well on your property, the time is right to do something about it. For the first time in several years, Illinois is offering financial assistance to get the job done, said Michael C. Hirschi, University of Illinois Extension water quality specialist.

It's all part of a statewide effort over the next five years to double the current rate at which abandoned wells are being sealed. If an abandoned well is not sealed properly, Hirschi said it provides a direct route for contaminants to reach groundwater. State agencies currently estimate that about 100,000 improperly abandoned wells in Illinois pose a threat to local health and safety.

To deal with this problem, the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDA), in cooperation with the Illinois Water Well Sealing Coalition and Illinois' 98 Soil and Water Conservation Districts, is offering cost-share assistance to landowners through its Conservation 2000 program. In the next year, the IDA has set aside $196,000 to be used by participating soil and water conservation districts to seal improperly abandoned wells.

Each applicant may receive cost-share money for one abandoned well within each soil and water conservation district, said Rich Nichols with the IDA's Bureau of Land and Water Resources. The cost-share amount cannot exceed $500 or 80 percent of the actual cost, whichever figure is less. The cost to seal a well depends on many factors, but the range is typically $250 to $800, Nichols said. However, deep wells in some parts of the state could run more.

To apply for assistance this year, Nichols said applicants must file the following forms before October 1, 2003:
--A Request for Cost-Share Funds to Abandon a Water Well (C-2000-1)
--A Water Well Sealing Plan (IWWAP-1)

Applicants will be notified by January 15, 2004 on the status of their requests. Nichols said that applications will be prioritized according to the location of the well and its condition, with the highest priority put on wells posing the greatest risks. To obtain application forms or to get additional information, contact your local soil and water conservation district, which should be listed in the phone book under local government or under the Natural Resources Conservation Service in the federal government section.