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Should wellheads be above or below the ground surface?

Posted: June 2, 2010

Research studies have demonstrated a clear benefit to having an extended wellhead.

Many private well owners in Pennsylvania have wellheads that are buried below the surface of the ground. This may be appealing to homeowners that don’t like looking at a pipe sticking up in the middle of their yard, but research studies have demonstrated a clear benefit to having an extended wellhead.

What problems can a buried well cause?

 Wells that are buried below the ground can have numerous disadvantages to wells that are extended above the ground surface. The most obvious disadvantage is that the well is not easily accessible by the well driller in the event that it needs to be serviced. Often the homeowner is unaware of the wells exact location underground, which can lead to added expense if the driller needs to do some investigating.

Wells buried below the ground surface are also more susceptible to bacterial contamination. Research studies conducted at Penn State University have found that wells buried in pits are more likely to have the presence of coliform bacteria than wells that are extended above the earth’s surface.

What can you do to fix your buried well?

 Fortunately, it is not usually difficult to extend a wellhead above the ground. A qualified water well driller should be able to weld or thread extra casing to your existing well and raise it above the ground. If the well was buried in a pit, it should be filled in with bentonite grout to the land surface. A sanitary or vermin-proof well cap should also be installed on the newly extended casing to ensure that surface contamination can not enter the well. As an added protection, the ground should be sloped away from your wellhead in all directions to prevent any surface water from ponding around the well.

After having the well extended, it would be a wise to take a sample of your drinking water to a state certified water testing lab for analysis. If the water tests positive for coliform bacteria then steps should be taken to disinfect the well. Information on coliform bacteria can be found at the link below.

How high should the well casing be extended above the ground?

 Any distance is better than having it buried below ground, but it is ideal to extend the well casing at least 12 inches above the ground surface.