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TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

Is this well pit worth restoring?

I'm buying a house which was built in the late 50s. This house originally had a well and septic system, but was connected to the city water and sewer many years ago.

I had no idea where the well was, but the house did have what I thought to be a cistern in the back yard, with a 2x3 foot trap door covering it. In the pit is about a foot and a half of crystal clear water with some large paver stones and what appears to be the base of an old pump on the bottom. I figured I'd keep it in case I installed a sprinkler system in the future. In the spring I was going to try pumping the water out to see how fast it refills and decide if it was worth keeping or not.

Today I asked my realtor to contact the seller and ask about the "cistern", and its original use. The seller came back and said that was in fact a "well pit". The pump was removed a long time ago, and this used to be the home's water supply until they switched to city water. She has no clue what's in there now and that's all she knows about it. I get the impression her husband handled these types of things around the house, and he died 14 years ago.

When I first read this I thought the "well pit" just contained support equipment for the well itself such as the pump and pressure tank and the well was elsewhere on the property. Now that I've done some reading, it looks like the well itself is or was actually IN the pit - perhaps below some of the large paver stones laying on the bottom.

This leaves me to wonder if I should try to restore the well at all. I know well pits aren't considered safe for potable water (which is just fine with me since I wouldn't want to drink from it anyway) but what might I expect from the well itself in terms of its usefulness assuming the well head is still intact?

Might something like this be worth trying to restore for outdoor water use or is there a good chance the entire system is FUBAR since it's been sitting for 20+ years without any kind of maintenance?



boogi man

join:2001-11-13
Jacksonville, FL
kudos:1

1 edit

Call a local well driller. Truly the only solid answers you'll get will be from them. I know down here there are only a few and they keep pretty good records of what they've drilled. I'd suspect your local guys do the same and can tell you all you'd need to know about your setup and what to do with it.

edited to add:

Chances are unless your yard is huge and your local utility is killing you with water charges. it's likely to be cheaper to tie in to the local water and/or a second meter for irrigation. again down here we have that option as our 'sewer' charges are sky high and naturally the irrigation water isn't going down the sanitary sewer.

in my last place i had a well that was on it's last legs and when i called the locals that had originally done the work they quoted me between $1,500 and $5k to sink a new well. for me at least that would have bought a looooot of yard watering water, however because that wasn't the primary use of the well it would've been worth while to have a new well sunk(mine was used for my geo-thermal hvac).
--
my site



cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7
reply to TheSMJ

You might also check local codes to see if restoring/repairing/redrilling/whatever is even an option, from a legal standpoint. Many cities prohibit water wells after municipal water becomes available to prevent contamination, monitoring a shared common aquifer, etc.



rfhar
The World Sport, Played In Every Country
Premium
join:2001-03-26
Buicktown,Mi
reply to TheSMJ

Well pits were common many years ago in Michigan. The pump and etc. were put in the pit so as not to freeze in the winter and the well is below the pit.


TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI
reply to TheSMJ

The yard is pretty big at 1.3 acres, and almost entirely lawn. The city does allow you to use a separate meter for outdoor plumbing to avoid the charge for sewer, but because of water shortages in the area during the summer months it can still be pricy to water a lawn even a quarter of the size of this one.

After I pump the water out of the pit and man up enough to actually climb in there, I'll check for a well head. If it's there and looks to be in working order to the untrained eye, I'll call a local well company to find out the legality of using it before paying someone to inspect it.

I figure if it's in working order or cost effective to repair I'd look into restoring it. If it's totally FUBAR, full of sand, etc I'll break in the concrete cover over the pit with a sledgehammer, fill the pit in with sand and topsoil and call it a day. I'm not planning to bring the well water into the house for any reason - it would be strictly outdoor use only running on plumbing separate from the house. Its fine if it freezes in the winter because I'd only be interested in using it during the late Spring/Summer/early Fall months.



tp0d
yabbazooie
Premium
join:2001-02-13
Carnegie, PA
kudos:5

Could be an artesian well.. Open the cover and watch the water for a while and see if the water is lightly flowing.. Possibly throw a leaf on top of the water to assist..

Very possible they had a submersible pump sitting on that flagstone at the base, and its no deeper than that. Wouldnt surprise me for an old well.

good luck

-j
--
if it aint broke, tweak it!!
currently on FiOS (kick aZZ!)


HarryH3
Premium
join:2005-02-21
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Reviews:
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reply to TheSMJ

said by TheSMJ:

After I pump the water out of the pit and man up enough to actually climb in there, I'll check for a well head.

Make certain that you have a helper when you enter the pit. You should never enter a confined space like that without someone available to pull you out. You never know what the quality of the "air" is down in the pit. A safety rope and a helper that's physically able to drag you back out, if required, could save your life.

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

said by HarryH3:

said by TheSMJ:

After I pump the water out of the pit and man up enough to actually climb in there, I'll check for a well head.

Make certain that you have a helper when you enter the pit. You should never enter a confined space like that without someone available to pull you out. You never know what the quality of the "air" is down in the pit. A safety rope and a helper that's physically able to drag you back out, if required, could save your life.

The pit is only 3-4 feet deep and about 4x5 feet around. I'm not too concerned with getting incapacitated especially if I leave the trap door open. There's no lock or even a latch on the door to keep it shut so if the door did somehow shut behind me I could just reach up and throw it open.

But then again, that sure would be a crappy place to die...


cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

said by TheSMJ:

But then again, that sure would be a crappy place to die...

...but not nearly as bad as a septic tank.


nunya
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join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
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reply to TheSMJ

3-4 feet deep? I'll bet it's just the pump pit, and it's filled with rain water. Pump it out, and there might be a well pipe in there. Who knows what condition it will be in though.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.


TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI
reply to cdru

said by cdru:

said by TheSMJ:

But then again, that sure would be a crappy place to die...

...but not nearly as bad as a septic tank.

Oh, that reminds me...

The seller also mentioned where the septic system was and of course has no idea if it was ever removed/abandoned properly or if I have a empty 1000+ gallon tank burred a few feet under the front lawn. I have absolutely no interest in ever using the septic system again (if it's even still there). I'm only interested in what state the tank is in if it's still on the property, and whether it's in danger of collapsing. I might be able to use a metal detector to find the leech field hardware, and then follow the plumbing to the tank's exact location.

There's also a dry well somewhere on the property that the basement floor drains used to empty into up until just a few years ago. I have a feeling it has something to do with a sinkhole that formed on the side of the front lawn close to where the septic system is/was. I'll dig into the pit a couple of feet and see what's in there.

Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey

With all this unknown stuff... Be sure to also ask about any oil tanks!



cdru
Go Colts
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join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7
reply to TheSMJ

said by TheSMJ:

There's also a dry well somewhere on the property that the basement floor drains used to empty into up until just a few years ago. I have a feeling it has something to do with a sinkhole that formed on the side of the front lawn close to where the septic system is/was. I'll dig into the pit a couple of feet and see what's in there.

You might want to watch this movie sometime. Not quite there yet, but with all this stuff you keep encountering...

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI
reply to Bob4

said by Bob4:

With all this unknown stuff... Be sure to also ask about any oil tanks!

The home inspector, myself and my dad couldn't find any sign of one having existed on the property and I'd bet good money the seller wouldn't have a clue.

Personally, I think I'm better off not knowing.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT

said by TheSMJ:

Personally, I think I'm better off not knowing.

If you have one and it ends up leaking you are liable for the soil remediation - and that can easily run in the $10-20k range. Removing a tank may only cost $1500-2000.

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

said by cowboyro:

If you have one and it ends up leaking you are liable for the soil remediation - and that can easily run in the $10-20k range. Removing a tank may only cost $1500-2000.

The gas furnace is from the late 80s (if I recall correctly) and so any oil tank that would have existed on the property would have to be older than that, so if there was a leak it would have happened many years ago.

When did they ban buried oil tanks anyways?

I doubt the furnace installer would have let them leave the oil tank in the ground if one existed without cleaning it and filling it with sand if they didn't remove it.

The seller of the house (she and her husband built the place) had clearly taken good care of the property. I'd be shocked if they let something like a buried oil tank rot in the ground.

EDIT: I should mention that the house mentioned in this thread is the same house I'm talking about: »Structural Question, Floor Joist Holes

That copper pipe in those photos was for natural gas. It terminates outside next to what's left of an old grill.

Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
Reviews:
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reply to TheSMJ

If the septic tank is in physically good condition you may not have to remove it. I lived in an area where municipal sewers were installed. The homeowners had their septic tanks pumped out and then filled with sand. The sand was packed with some kind of a vibrator to make it solid. Check with your municipal building department to determine if you can fill a septic tank with sand rather than removing it. Cost is much lower than digging out the tank and you do not have to deal with filling in the hole.


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
Reviews:
·Optimum Online
reply to TheSMJ

Click for full size
There would be a vent pipe like the one in this photo I randomly picked from the 'Net. Note that the pipe could be some distance from the tank and located next to the building.

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

Yep that's what we looked for, along with a fill port. Found nothing of the sort anywhere on the property. It's always possible they just pulled the vent and port out of the ground and left the tank but that would be unlikely.

said by Mr Matt:

Check with your municipal building department to determine if you can fill a septic tank with sand rather than removing it. Cost is much lower than digging out the tank and you do not have to deal with filling in the hole.

That's what I intend to do if I find a tank that wasn't already filled.

Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey

Sounds like you're OK then.



nunya
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join:2000-12-23
O Fallon, MO
kudos:12
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reply to TheSMJ

Oil heat is a rarity here in the Midwest. It's much more popular on the East coast.
Of the few rare Midwestern exceptions that do use oil heat, most of the tanks are above ground or in the basement.
Almost everyone in this region uses NG, propane, or electric.
--
If someone refers to herself / himself as a "guru", they probably aren't.


Tig

join:2006-06-29
Carrying Place, ON
Reviews:
·voip.ms

2 edits
reply to TheSMJ

said by TheSMJ:

Oh, that reminds me...

The seller also mentioned where the septic system was and of course has no idea if it was ever removed/abandoned properly or if I have a empty 1000+ gallon tank burred a few feet under the front lawn. I have absolutely no interest in ever using the septic system again (if it's even still there). I'm only interested in what state the tank is in if it's still on the property, and whether it's in danger of collapsing. I might be able to use a metal detector to find the leech field hardware, and then follow the plumbing to the tank's exact location.

There's also a dry well somewhere on the property that the basement floor drains used to empty into up until just a few years ago. I have a feeling it has something to do with a sinkhole that formed on the side of the front lawn close to where the septic system is/was. I'll dig into the pit a couple of feet and see what's in there.

Before plastics, clay pipe was used for septic. I doubt you'll find any sort of metal hardware to detect, other than perhaps the pipe that feeds the tank. You should be able to spot where this pipe exits the home through the basement wall. Then, take a guess about 10' straight out from the home and drive a piece of rebar down into the ground a couple feet to see if you can hit the lid. Although, my old septic was covered with a corrugated steel panel. It was a noticeable sink hole and rebar would have just poked a hole.
I'm curious, how does the well pit, water level compare to the basement level?

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

said by Tig:

I'm curious, how does the well pit, water level compare to the basement level?

The bottom of the pit is ~4 feet above the basement floor. However, the basement is dry.


Steve
I know your IP address
Consultant
join:2001-03-10
Foothill Ranch, CA
kudos:5
reply to TheSMJ

said by TheSMJ:

I had no idea where the well was, but the house did have what I thought to be a cistern in the back yard, with a 2x3 foot trap door covering it. In the pit is about a foot and a half of crystal clear water with some large paver stones and what appears to be the base of an old pump on the bottom.

I predict that when he gets to the bottom of this, he'll find a safe


Jtmo
Premium
join:2001-05-20
Novato, CA

1 recommendation

reply to TheSMJ

Be careful of the old septic tank, my neighbor decades ago walked across ours and the lid broke. She damn near drowned and would have if my brother and Dad had not heard her screaming FIRE, FIRE! Why Fire? "Would you have come if I had yelled SHIT?
True story, and don't ask how many showers and baths she took. And NO lawsuit, those were the days.


TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

1 recommendation

said by Jtmo:

Be careful of the old septic tank, my neighbor decades ago walked across ours and the lid broke. She damn near drowned and would have if my brother and Dad had not heard her screaming FIRE, FIRE! Why Fire? "Would you have come if I had yelled SHIT?
True story, and don't ask how many showers and baths she took. And NO lawsuit, those were the days.

That's precisely the type of situation I'm trying to avoid by verifying the tank was removed, crushed and reburied, or filled with sand.

Drowning in a pool of other people's shit isn't quite how I plan to go out.

Could you even imagine the smell? *shudder*


Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Millenicom

said by TheSMJ:

said by Jtmo:

Be careful of the old septic tank, my neighbor decades ago walked across ours and the lid broke. She damn near drowned and would have if my brother and Dad had not heard her screaming FIRE, FIRE! Why Fire? "Would you have come if I had yelled SHIT?
True story, and don't ask how many showers and baths she took. And NO lawsuit, those were the days.

That's precisely the type of situation I'm trying to avoid by verifying the tank was removed, crushed and reburied, or filled with sand.

Drowning in a pool of other people's shit isn't quite how I plan to go out.

Could you even imagine the smell? *shudder*

Good Grief living in a sanitary bubble.

There are plenty of people who work with and in septic tanks. How do you think they get pumped out? Yes they have to be pumped about every 5 years now.


Jtmo
Premium
join:2001-05-20
Novato, CA

Cleaning them is one thing, drowning in them is another.



Jack_in_VA
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join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1
Reviews:
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said by Jtmo:

Cleaning them is one thing, drowning in them is another.

Unless someone leaves the access cover off that's not likely to happen. You do realize it's a concrete tank?

TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

said by Jack_in_VA See Profile
Unless someone leaves the access cover off that's not likely to happen. You do realize it's a concrete tank?

:



Not always. Sometime they're steel.