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Water Well Contractor Program

ECL §15-1525 (leaves DEC website) requires any business conducting water well drilling activities to register annually with DEC before doing business anywhere in New York State. The water well contractor must notify DEC prior to commencement of drilling a water well and file a Water Well Completion Report with DEC upon completion of a water well. A copy of this report must also to be provided to the owner of the water well.

Water well standards are determined by the NYS Department of Health (DOH). Appendix 5-B, Standards for Water Wells (leaves DEC website) contains specifications for location, construction, well yield, pumps, control of flowing wells, separation standards, well decommissioning, and more.

ECL §15-1502 (leaves DEC website) provides definitions of terms included in ECL §15-1525. The enforcement provisions of ECL §15-1525 are provided in ECL §71-1115 (leaves DEC website).

To report an unregistered water well contractor, please visit Report an Environmental Problem.

Consumer Information and Protection

Many New Yorkers rely on wells for drinking water. If you need to have a new water well drilled or an existing well repaired, you should know that consumers are protected under ECL §15-1525. The DEC Consumer Protection Guide (PDF) contains information that you may find useful. The Water Well Contractor Search Tool will help you find a contractor in your area that is currently registered with DEC.

Several other agencies also have information available to aid consumers. Topics include basic water well construction, water well system components, drilling methods, maintenance and cleaning, water quality and quantity, treatment, and more. See "Links Leaving DEC's Website" on the right-hand column for additional information for water well contracting and ownership.

Water Well Contractor Registration

Applications for registration are accepted throughout the year. Registration are effective through March 31st of the following year. Requirements for registration as a Water Well Contractor are:

  • Proof of having passed appropriate certification exams as described below.
  • Submission of a NYS Water Well Contractor Registration Form (PDF). The registration form may be completed and submitted online using DEC's eBusiness Forms (click the blue "DEC Online Forms Login" button).
  • A check or money order for the $10 annual registration fee.

Users must be registered with in order to use the online form system. User guides and help on registering for the portal are available on the portal information web page.

Water Well Contractor Certification Exams

All water well activities must be supervised by a person on-site who is exam certified. To meet New York State's Certification Requirements (PDF), an individual must take and pass two exams (General Drilling Exam and one additional drilling exam) to be certified for drilling and two exams (Water Systems General Exam and one additional pump exam) to be certified for pump installation and service. Individuals who engage in drilling and pump installation must be certified for both. Registered businesses are responsible for ensuring that all water well drilling activities, including pump installation and servicing, are supervised by an exam certified individual.

Certification exams are administered by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA). Study materials are available by calling NGWA at 1-800-551-7379. Classroom review courses and additional information is available through the Empire State Water Well Drillers Association (ESWWDA) at 1-800-321-2693. Membership is not required in either organization to take the exams. Exams are available to be taken at PSI testing locations across New York State. Contact PSI at 855-579-4642.

Water Well Contractor Reporting Forms

Preliminary Notice of Proposed Water Well

NYS Environmental Conservation Law ECL §15-1525 requires registered water well contractors to notify DEC prior to commencement of drilling a water well.

For all counties except Nassau, Suffolk, Kings or Queens, drilling contractors must file a Preliminary Notice Of Proposed Water Well (PDF) with DEC's Central Office prior to the start of drilling. This form may be also be completed and submitted online using DEC's eBusiness Forms (click the blue "DEC Online Forms Login" button).

For Nassau, Suffolk, Kings or Queens counties, drilling contractors must file a Preliminary Report of Proposed Well with DEC's Region 1 Office. This form may be obtained by email or by calling 631-444-0405.

Water Well Completion Report

ECL §15-1525 requires a Well Completion Report be completed by the contractor and filed with DEC and the well owner for each water well drilled within the state of New York. DEC provides Well Completion Report Forms to registered water well contractors to assist them in complying with this part of the law.

For all counties except Nassau, Suffolk, Kings or Queens, a Water Well Completion Report (PDF) must be filed with DEC's Central Office.

For Nassau, Suffolk, Kings or Queens counties, the Long Island Well Completion Report must be filed with DEC's Region 1 Office. This form may be obtained by email or by calling 631-444-0405.

Water Well Contractor and Completion Report Record Search

Water Well Contractors must be registered and provide a Water Well Completion Report for each water well that is constructed in New York State. DEC uses this information to manage and protect the state's water resources. This information is also valuable to the public and numerous other interest groups.

Registered Water Well Contractors

This search tool lists currently registered water well contractors: Online Search for a Registered Water Well Contractor

Basic Water Well Information

This search tool contains basic information for water wells that have been drilled in New York State since the start of the reporting program in April 2000: Online Search for Basic Well Information

This data is developed from Water Well Completion Reports submitted to DEC and in most cases is not verified. Information is subject to change at any time. User assumes all risk and liability in using this information.

Water well data is also immediately available for use by the public and interested groups in the formats listed below:

For Nassau, Suffolk, Kings or Queens counties, Water Well Completion Reports are maintained by the DEC Region 1 office. Water well records for these counties may be requested by email or by calling 631-444-0405.

Geothermal Wells

For wells 500 feet deep or less

DEC's Division of Water (DOW) regulates wells up to 500 feet deep. The drilling, construction, operation, and plugging of geothermal wells over 500 feet is regulated by DEC's Division of Mineral Resources (DMN).

NYS law requires driller and pump installer registration and certification with DOW for open-loop or standing column systems. Driller registration and certification is not required for closed-loop geothermal systems with boreholes drilled up to 500 feet deep.

NYS law requires that preliminary notice and well completion reports be filed with DOW for open-loop or standing column systems with boreholes drilled up to 500 feet deep. NYS law does not require pre-notification or a well completion report for closed-loop geothermal systems with boreholes drilled up to 500 feet deep.

A State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit may be required for certain open-loop systems.

Although not currently required by NYS law, geothermal contractors may take Certified Vertical Closed Loop Driller (CVCLD) Exam offered by the National Ground Water Association (NGWA). Geothermal contractors may also be accredited and/or certified by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA). See "Links Leaving DEC's Website" (on the right-hand column) for additional information for geothermal well contracting and ownership.

Additional Requirements For Wells in Nassau, Suffolk, Kings and Queens Counties

A Part 602 permit (leaves DEC website) is required for all open-loop or standing column geothermal systems with boreholes drilled up to 500 feet deep with the capability of producing more than 45 gpm (gallons per minute). The permit application must be filed with the DEC Regional Headquarters office in Stony Brook, NY. A Permit Application may be obtained by email or by calling 631-444-0405.

Flowing Wells

Flowing wells are water wells from which water flows under natural pressure without the use of a pump. Flowing wells occur in many locations across New York State, as shown on the map below. The discharge rate for uncontrolled flowing wells can range from a few drips an hour to over 1,000 gallons per minute (1.4 million gallons per day). A flow of just 5 gallons per minute will waste over 2.6 million gallons of water in a year.

Click the image to open a larger PDF image with more detail.

Complications Arising from Uncontrolled Flowing Wells

When flowing wells are not controlled they waste our precious groundwater resource and can damage the surrounding environment in a number of ways.

The water supply of the aquifer is reduced, potentially affecting wells miles away.

Area water quality and aquatic habitat may be harmed. For example, if cold groundwater flows into to a stream, lake, or river, the habitat of warm water aquatic species may be impacted. Turbidity or water chemistry may be altered by the infusion of groundwater carrying high volumes of sediment.

Water spilling over the outside of the casing of a flowing well may cause surface soil erosion, subsurface voids, and localized flooding. It is also possible for rocks and sediment to erupt during a breakout or blowout and create unstable and hazardous conditions near the well. The result could be damage to the land, the well, and structures.

Controlling Flowing Wells

These undesirable impacts can be avoided by controlling the flowing well. NYS Department of Health Standards for Water Wells (Link leaves NYSDEC's webpage) require that flowing wells be constructed, equipped, and operated to control the rate of discharge. Well control may be accomplished by adding a few feet of well casing to the top of the well or by following other standard well drilling industry practices to stop the flow while maintaining its use. Owners of flowing wells should enlist the aid of a DEC registered well driller to ensure the proper operation of groundwater wells. DEC regulations address the damage caused by uncontrolled flowing wells, including:

  • 6 NYCRR Part 608 Use and Protection of Waters
  • Part 661 Tidal Wetlands - Land Use Regulations
  • Part 663 Freshwater Wetlands Permit Requirements
  • Part 750 State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permits
  • Subpart 646-4 Stormwater Management

Water Well Decommissioning

To prevent groundwater contamination and hazardous ground conditions, all wells must be either maintained or properly decommissioned by a NYS Registered Well Driller. Good maintenance includes protection from vandalism by use of a protective casing and a locked well cap in good condition or by welding the cover in place. Additionally the well casing should be maintained in a way to prevent surface water from entering the casing. The casing or cap should be marked with a well owner's identification and the well owner should keep a record of all well locations. Maintenance also includes inspecting the well periodically, at least once per year. If for any reason the well is not maintained it should be decommissioned. The term "abandonment" is vague and could be defined simply as neglect. Therefore think of decommissioning a well to be permanent closure.

The procedure detailed below will ensure proper decommissioning of a well.

When an active well becomes inactive or is decommissioned, please fill out the Water Well Abandonment and Decommissioning Report (PDF).

Note: For decommissioning procedures associated with environmental remediation projects, please see DEC Division of Environmental Remediation Groundwater Monitoring Well Decommissioning Policy (PDF).

  1. Local and regional regulations
    Prior to conducting well decommissioning, municipal authorities should be contacted to determine if there are local regulations regarding this activity. In the counties of Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk, the DEC Region 1 office must be contacted (631-444-0405) prior to any well decommissioning.
  2. Written records
    Complete and accurate written records of decommissioning operations should be maintained. The information to be recorded should include the original well log and/or construction record, the type of grouting material used, volume of material used, and method of placing grouting material into the well. Upon decommissioning a well, the record of such action should be sent to:
    Bureau of Water Resource Management
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-3508
    1. Records of wells decommissioned in Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties must be sent to the Region 1 office (see section I, above).
  3. Removal of obstructions
    Remove equipment, materials, debris, and obstructions that may interfere with sealing of the well or boring. This may include pumping equipment, drop pipe, packers, etc.
  4. Disinfection
    The well should be disinfected using a solution of calcium hypochlorite, such as HTH, containing approximately 65% to 75% available chlorine. Common household bleach may be too weak. Calcium hypochlorite products containing fungicides, algicides, or other disinfectants should be avoided.
  5. Casing
    Appropriate measurements should be made to verify the depth of the well. Casing with an open annular space should be either grouted in place or removed. For casing removed from a collapsing formation, grout should be pumped through a tremie pipe so that during its removal the bottom of the casing remains submerged in grout.
    1. Where casing is grouted in place, the casing should be cut off at least 24 inches below grade, where practicable. For wells located in a building, upon completion of grouting the casing should be filled to floor level with no less than 12 inches of cement. Casing should be cut off not more than 3 inches from floor level. For wells terminating in a well pit, casing should be cut off not less than twelve inches below the grade established when the pit is filled.
    2. After the grout has consolidated, the top of the casing should be closed and sealed. Steel casings should be sealed with a welded steel plate; PVC casings with a permanently affixed PVC cap.
  6. Screened intervals
    The portion(s) of the well occupied by the well screen should be filled with clean sand or gravel (defined as being relatively free of clay and organic matter). The filling should be no less permeable than the formation surrounding the well screen and should extend no more than three feet above the top of the screen.
  7. Grouting of the well
    The entire casing, including riser annular spaces between casings should be filled. Sealing materials should have bearing strength sufficient to prevent subsidence and support traffic or building loads. Note that the use of too much bentonite in the grout mix can lead to excessive shrinkage and cracking.
    1. Slurry mixture and pumping - When a bentonite slurry, neat cement slurry or concrete slurry is used, it should be placed into the well under pressure via a tremie pipe of at least one inch inside diameter. At the start of operations, the tremie pipe is placed at the bottom of the well to avoid segregation or dilution of sealing materials. The tremie pipe should be submerged in the slurry at all times during slurry placement. The tremie pipe may be raised slowly as grout is introduced to the casing or hole. Placing of grout should be continuous until grout appears at the top of the casing, at which time the tremie pipe may be removed. If the tremie pipe remains at the bottom of the well during grout emplacement, remove the pipe prior to grout hardening.
    2. Cement slurries - Neat cement or concrete slurries should be prepared by adding cement or sand-and-cement to the calculated required volume of clean water. The material should be adequately mixed until it is free of lumps, then immediately pumped into the well without delay.
    3. Coarse grade or pelletized bentonite - Where coarse grade or pelletized bentonite is used, it should be poured slowly into the top of the well to avoid bridging of material in the casing or borehole. Pellets or coarse bentonite should be placed into the well by pouring at an even rate not to exceed fifty pounds per five minute interval. Fine bentonite particles which accumulate in the bottom of the shipping container should not be used. A work pipe or weighted drop string should be placed in the well and the height of accumulated plugging material measured after each 50 pounds of bentonite is placed in the well. If measurement indicates that bridging of plugging material has occurred, a work pipe, drill rods, or other weighted device should be run into the casing to break the bridge. The plugging operation should continue until the bentonite appears at the surface. Water should then be placed into the casing to promote expansion of the bentonite above the static water level.
    4. Additional sealing recommendations for wells or borings in unconsolidated materials.
      1. It is recommended that the portion of a well adjacent to unconsolidated material be filled with bentonite grout, high solids bentonite grout, or neat cement grout. Concrete grout is most appropriate for grouting in the dry portion of the hole.
      2. A dug well 16 inches or greater in diameter may be sealed by pouring at a rate sufficient to completely fill the well without bridging using:
        1. uniformly mixed dry bentonite powder or granular bentonite and sand in a ratio of one part bentonite to five parts sand;
        2. clean unconsolidated materials with a permeability of 10-6 centimeters per second or less; or
        3. concrete grout
    5. Additional sealing recommendations for wells or borings in rock - Lost circulation can occur when sealing a bedrock well that intersects fractures. Care must be taken to bridge or seal fractures to prevent excessive loss of grout and ensure that the fracture is sealed. Application of lost circulation prevention methods may be required. Any materials added to a cement or bentonite slurry for this purpose must not pose a contamination risk to groundwater. Wells penetrating cavernous rock may require placement of a bridge in competent rock over the void. Grout is then placed above the bridge.
  8. Sealing flowing well
    For flowing wells the integrity of the exterior casing seal should be tested prior to decommissioning the well. To test the seal, the well should be capped for a period of one week and checked for any leakage around the outside of the casing. If leakage occurs, the casing exterior must be resealed prior to well decommissioning. Once leakage has been eliminated, the interior of the well casing should be pressure grouted. DEC should be notified when a well cannot be sealed as described. Alternatively, and depending on the pressure head, the casing can be extended upward until no water flows over the top. For general information on flowing wells, see the Flowing Well Handbook (PDF) , published by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
  9. Site restoration
    Well pits should be filled with clean soil to the established grade level. Upon completion of well decommissioning, the site should be restored to a condition that reasonably approaches the original condition of the property prior to the start of work. The work area should be graded to conform to existing ground contours. All materials, debris, tools, machinery, sealing material, grease, or other materials which have accumulated at the site should be removed and/or disposed of properly and in accordance with law.

NOTE: When an active well becomes inactive or is decommissioned, please fill out DEC's Water Well Abandonment and Decommissioning Report (PDF).

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