PUC: It will not ban private wells

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Public Utilities Commission is no longer considering a ban on private wells.

The group met Tuesday to discuss the subject. Without taking a formal vote, it appeared to reach a consensus to clarify existing rules on private wells and potentially tighten restrictions on wells – without expressly prohibiting them.

“I don’t like the idea of the city saying you can’t do it, but if we say these are the parameters …” suggested Bill Supalla, PUC chairman.

Already in Fairmont, the code mandates that newly platted property must hook up to the city’s water and sewer system.

But the real concern isn’t that people will have wells dug for their homes but for their yards. The cost of implementing the state-required water treatment system for potable water is too expensive for the vast majority of the population to consider.

“There are enough market forces for this to be controlled that way,” said Commissioner Jeff Ziemer.

The cost of digging a well just for irrigation is also likely to prevent many residents from taking that option. But for those who do, the city wants to make sure they follow the rules and take the necessary precautions to prevent contaminating the city’s water system with untreated groundwater.

“There are lots of rules on how wells are dug and how they’re abandoned. It’s just a question of protecting our investment,” said Public Works director Troy Nemmers.

Commissioner Dale Schumann is concerned about the cost to the city if cross contamination does occur.

“I don’t know how much money it would cost us to get our system cleaned out,” he said, citing the problems for residents and the city of Welcome when its water system was contaminated several years ago.

“The problem is not large users, where it’s done right,” he said. “The problem is when 15 neighbors hook up their hoses to a well.”

Schumann suggested enforcing the city’s water restrictions, which are passed on by the state Department of Natural Resources, to everyone, whether they use city-treated surface water or groundwater.

City staff will continue to research the subject and bring back recommendations at a later date to the PUC.