Red Deer County offers incentive to protect water supplies

Red Deer County is offering a cash incentive to encourage landowners to plug old water wells to protect underground water supplies.

Red Deer County is offering a cash incentive to encourage landowners to plug old water wells to protect underground water supplies.

Old, unused water wells pose environmental and health risks. The open holes can provide a direct route to underground aquifers for surface contamination, increasing the danger water supplies will get polluted.

While landowners are required to plug old water wells, county officials believe hundreds, if not thousands, of wells have not been properly sealed off.

Red Deer County has 11,600 water wells on record, plus an unknown number of wells that have not been recorded. It is estimated that 20 per cent of wells may need to be reclaimed.

To encourage landowners to plug their wells, the county launched the Safe Water Well Initiative earlier this year. The program provides information as well as a cash incentive of up to $400 per well to help cover plugging costs.

Ken Lewis, the county’s conservation co-ordinator, said interest has been high for the program with 17 well owners signed up. Ten wells have been plugged so far and another nine are on the list. Another two dozen well owners have expressed interest in the program.

Wells are typically plugged with bentonite clay. There are about half a dozen companies that do this work and the county will provide a list to those interested in getting the work done.

To sign up for the Safe Water Wells Initiative and schedule a pre-inspection of old wells, landowners should call the county’s Roland Krusi at 403-598-3684.

A limited number of applications will be accepted this year on a first-come first-serve basis.