What to do with old water pump/well pit in basement?

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louder

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My house at one time had a water pump and well that was installed in a 5ft deep pit in the corner of the basement.
The house has a full basement, the ceiling clearance is 7.5ft, with a nicely done concrete floor that slopes to a central sump pump pit in the center below the steps.
The well pit is about 5ft square, and the well pipe protrudes about a foot out of the bare dirt around it. The sides of the hole are bricked up about half way down.
For years its been just covered up with a platform made up of a bunch of 1x4 planks that span the hole.
Getting to the water meter, breaker box, or the water shutoff requires walking on the springy old wood platform.
It seemed to be a bit softer than usual a few years ago so I threw a piece of 3/4" plywood over it as well.

I really don't want to lose the ability to use the old well, not for drinking but for emergency purposes I guess. (I did run a hose down the well pipe and was able to fill a 30 gallon bucket with fresh clean water rather quickly using just a drill driven pump, so it likely still a viable well even though its not been used in 60 or so years.

I've considered two things, one is to just extend the pipe to the current floor level, fill the hole in, and cement over it, or, brick up the walls of the pit, pour a cement floor in the pit, and build a better cover for the pit, maybe using steel or aluminum.

The pit is dry, and the bottom of the pit is a good 12ft below the surface level of the surrounding ground.
I assumed that the pit was left unpaved when it was in use years ago for drainage, and the depth of the pit may also have assisted the ability of an older style pump bringing water to the surface from what appears to be a 40+ft deep hole. (When I checked to see if there was still water down there I ran a 50ft garden hose down the pipe, there was about 6ft out of the hole when I started getting clear water. There's water in the bottom 10ft or so of the pipe.
I sent a sample of the water I pumped out of the hole out to be tested and it came back really good despite being told that everyone stopped using their wells around here due to contamination back in the 60's. The issue then was supposedly fecal waste and nitrates from nearby farms. There's not been a nearby farm here in 40 years or more.
I believe they were required to show proof back in the day that the well was disabled when they connected to city water, when i bought the place I was given a copy of a document from 1963 guaranteeing that the former well had been removed and disabled and it was stamped by some city inspector back then.
None of the other houses around here have their wells still in place, all have either filled in the pit and completely repaved the basement, or they never had a well pit like this.
I'm not looking to drink water from the well, I just figure it won't hurt to have access to another source of water if I need it one day.
I just don't like having a shaky old platform over a hole too deep to easily climb out of with a pipe sticking up down below. Not to mention the dirt bottom to the pit inside the house like that.
 

JoeD

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I would extend the well casing up, fill the hole and pour a level floor.
Then I would probably also install a pump system and use it for watering the lawn etc.
 

louder

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I have a new pump and tank, all I need is a check valve.

The downside of filling in the pit and extending the well casing is that it then will be taking up floor space.
I'm leaning towards building a concrete wall around the sides leaving a lip so the cover or hatch can sit flush with the surrounding floor. I also thought about using expanded steel so there would be good ventilation for the pump motor in the hole.
 

Guzzle

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You could get it checked for Radon, IIRC 4 pico curies/liter is the action level. That's what we have but we rarely go in the basement.
 

ajaynejr

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I would say that the best thing is to keep the pit, but it might be necessary to partially fill in the pit (,make it less deep) to ensure its walls cannot collapse.

There are a few uses for a basement pit that could be handy in the future. For example it could become added storage space if it stays dry.

Did you say that much of the basement floor near the pit is still exposed dirt?

Keeping the well in usable condition is also a good idea for lawn watering etc. If the well is not fast enough for lawn watering, you could even use the pit itself to store water awaiting use, but you would need to build and waterproof pit walls so the water pumped in advance is not lost back to the ground before you can use it. (And extend the well casing sealed so the pumped water cannot re-commingle with water deep underground.)
 

louder

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The basement floor is concrete, the well pit is in one corner, about 18" off the corner walls. The walls of the pit are block partway down, but not to the bottom. The bottom is dirt except for a small pad where the pump used to sit. The basement is pretty dry, I get a few trickling leaks here and there when we get heavy or prolonged rain but its rare and the sump pump, which is in the middle handles that pretty fast. I run a dehumidifier down there during the summer as well.
The pit never sees any water at all.
All I've done so far is to drop a hose down the well pipe and draw up some water with a small pump. I let it run steady through a garden hose for about an hour with no issues. I'm assuming it had a 1/2hp shallow well pump there before. I have a new pump and bladder tank that I was going to use but we haven't had any water rationing here in a while so I didn't set it all up, I also didn't like the idea of the pit being dirt bottomed.
I would also need to buy a check valve to set up the new pump.

My concern as to using it would be that its likely cheaper to use city water than to pay for the electricity the pump motor will use.
It would be for emergency use only, but in most emergencies, I'd be without electricity as well, meaning the pump would be one more thing on the generator circuit as well.

What I'm still thinking of doing is to concrete the bottom of the pit, leaving the pipe exposed, even if I need to extend it a few inches. I'd then either pour or brick up a ledge or some sort to support a flush floor plate, be it wood or steel.
The current cover is just a big 7x5ft panel made from 1x4 planks that someone added a piece of 1/2" plywood to reinforce it a bit.
The pit is directly below my main service panel, water meter, and one basement window. My laundry tub is also right on the edge of the pit.
While I don't think its going to cave in, I really don't like walking on the bouncy old wood cover to get to the breaker box or water shutoff. It creates about a 6x8ft area of unusable space down there too. Not that I want to put something in front of the breaker panel, but I can't even easily roll something over that way for even a moment.

Zoning wise we're not supposed to have the well, it was listed as 'capped and filled' when I changed the deed over.
They ran city water due to farm contamination in the early 60's or so. (The water I drew from the well tested fine though).
There was a really old piston type water pump in the basement when I first got here, it had sat and rusted up pretty bad. There was also a 'booster' type impeller pump connected to an abandoned outside faucet that had been removed an capped, but the pump still works. That pump is small, maybe a 1/2hp motor but with maybe a 4" impeller. Its similar to an old swimming pool pump. (I suppose it could have also been for filling a swimming pool but I see no signs of there ever being a pool here).

Water wise, I don't use enough water here to even go beyond my minimum charge, so cost isn't an issue with the city water, my bill is never over $15/mo. whether I use it or not.
Running a 1/2hp pump will no doubt cost me $50 to $100 in electricity per year to run if I use it just for washing the cars and watering the lawn and garden. (I'm figuring about an hour and a half run time per day 8 mo of the year on a 1/2hp pump or around 400kwh) Electricity is currently at $.19/kwh here not counting a 'fuel surcharge they hit us with every month.
Running the pump will no doubt cost me money not save me anything. It would be easier and cheaper to hide drip irrigation lines in the garden.
We don't drink city water, it tastes bad and fails water tests for benzine, iron, and a few other minor contaminates. The biggest issue is lack of water pressure here. I can only run one sprinkler at a time on city line pressure. Those with in ground sprinklers usually have a holding tank in the basement or in ground and a separate pump.
 

BuzzLOL

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The water in that well is probably safer than the poison tap water we have in this city. It gave me an enlarged liver and ever increasing liver pain for years before I discovered that the city water was what was killing me. Switching to bottled water in the nick of time saved my life, although the liver damage may still have shortened it. Also, that poison water costs us $70/month... vastly more than the less than $1/month cost of electricity to pump well water.
 

Guzzle

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What are your top two preferences going forward at this point?
If they're tied, why?
 

louder

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The water in that well is probably safer than the poison tap water we have in this city. It gave me an enlarged liver and ever increasing liver pain for years before I discovered that the city water was what was killing me. Switching to bottled water in the nick of time saved my life, although the liver damage may still have shortened it. Also, that poison water costs us $70/month... vastly more than the less than $1/month cost of electricity to pump well water.
Funny you mention that, years ago I had been having some severe gut pains, they had me in the hospital thinking maybe it was food poisoning or even a stomach perforation. After a month they had tried everything, being early spring, I was also having allergy issues, so they gave me Benedryl, that lessened the gut pain for some reason. They upped the dose of Benedryl to 300mg and the gut pain went away for the first time in months. They then went on to test to see what was going on. They tested for another two weeks with no result, then one nurse realized that I got itchy every time I took a shower. She made me change soap, then gave me special towels, but it persisted. They even upped the Benedryl dose. The one nurse then tried something, she took a towel soaked in water and laid it over my leg for a few hours, and my leg broke out in a rash. Being the weekend, she asked if I'd try not taking the Benedryl and drink soda with my meals for a couple days instead of water. By Monday the pain was gone.
I later went through a series of allergy tests which told me I have an allergy to nickel, and chlorine.
The idiot doctor then tells me that I should stop eating things with greens, no spinach, beans, etc. But to drink a lot of water. He told me "No one is allergic to water".

I disregarded most of what he said, I switched to bottled water then and have been fine since. I did find that a good filter system makes water drinkable too. I keep two Brita pitchers in my fridge, I run the water through one, then into the second pitcher to be safe.

I moved away from this area for about 25 years, all my symptoms and allergies were gone the whole time I was away from here. Now that I'm back, I again have pollen allergies, and can't drink the water. I even need to wear gloves when I wash dishes. I use a special rubber mat that keeps me of the bottom of the tub a bit when I shower.
Something that I've always noticed here is that when I fill a bucket with water outside, plain water in a clean bucket foams up as if it had soap in it. The water where I lived before didn't do that. We didn't drink the tap water there either because they told us it had high iron and fecal bacteria levels caused by the rocks in the reservoir and from ducks that called the reservoir home.

I had recommended that they put duck on the menu at the local diner to solve the problem but they said the ten thousand or so ducks on the reservoir were 'protected' and couldn't be killed.
If you went out at daybreak, the water there was wall to wall ducks and geese.


What are your top two preferences going forward at this point?
If they're tied, why?
I'm thinking that the right answer is to cement line the pit, add some supports for a proper cover that sits flush. I have the pump so I'll install it as a separate system, leaving me the option to use it or just keep it in case I need it.

I was actually pretty surprised that the well was still good after so many years, it was likely dormant for 60 years or so. Surprisingly the first water that came up was crystal clear. I was half expecting it to run dry after a bit but I was able to pump consistently from it. All I did was drop a garden hose down the hole, prime the hose and turn on a small vane pump and I got water. It ran for hours, I had put a white plastic barrel down there with a white rag tied around the outlet side of the hose to see if I was bringing up any dirt or rust but it ran clean from start to finish. I couldn't believe that nothing had fallen down the pipe after all those years or that the well point or pipe hadn't rusted away in all that time. (The original water main, which was galvanized pipe, rotted away 30 years ago.

Of course, I haven't tried pumping directly through the pipe, maybe its perforated all over and I just haven't found that out yet. The part of the pipe I can see looks good though. I have an endoscope that's about 4ft long, and the upper part of the pipe looked good when I checked it out a few years ago.

Something else I did consider is that the pit is in a bad spot, and if the need arose, it wouldn't be all that hard to drill a well somewhere else either. I also have had some thought to what happens if I seal up the pit with concrete, put the pump and tank in the hole, and then get a leak flooding the pit. It would put the motor underwater in the pit. where as if it were on the surface, that can't happen.
With those thoughts in mind, someone here mentioned that the right answer would be to replace the well casing and drip a submersible pump in the hole. That eliminates the chance of a pump motor getting flooded, and it would likely draw less power and make more pressure.
It also wouldn't require the pit to hide the bulky pump.
Another suggestion was to not put the bladder tank in the pit, rust issues, removal and installation of replacement tanks will be difficult, and if the pit were to flood for any reason, the tank would try to float, likely damaging the plumbing attached to it.

The pump originally sat on the bottom of the pit, the tank, was horizontal and hanging from the first floor floor joists above. It was only about 5 gallons. The tank I've got is 30 gallons.

I like the idea of a submersible pump, but have a few concerns there as well, being a stand by system, will it go bad if I don't use it all the time?
The second issue is the cost, I have everything to install an old school shallow well pump, and if the pipe is indeed good, all I need to do is put it all together and wire it up.

No matter what, the rickety old cover on that pit has to go. I want to get it done while I'm still young enough and still able to do it. At the very least, I can always just fill it with sand and stone and concrete over it.

I also thought about trying to line the old pipe with a length of PEX tubing, the pipe is 1 1/2" ID, I can easily drop 25ft of 1" pex down that hole and pump through it with a smaller pump as an emergency water source.

I don't know much about wells in general, but I do know a buddy drills new wells all the time all over his farm by hand to water his livestock. He's got solar powered pumps that fill small tanks that keep watering stations filled during the summer months. All he does is buy a well point, a check valve and the pipe and he hand drills a well in a matter of a few hours.

What are old well pipes and well points made from? (Circe 1950 or so).
I keep hearing from those who don't have city water that they keep having to drill new wells every 5 to 10 years because they either dried up, or the well point collapsed, or they started getting too much dirt of silt in the water. Yet I know some folks who have had the same well in their basement for 70 years.

The one thing I'd hate to do is go through all the work of saving the pit and setting up a well only to find out it runs dry in a year or that the pipe is shot. Nothing bugs me more than throwing money away on something that don't work out.
 

Guzzle

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Nothing bugs me more than throwing money away on something that don't work out.
Figure the odds as best you can & decide on how much money you want to put up.

If you decide that the chance is 40% that your fix will work & you put up $500, the "expected loss" is 0.6 x $500 = $300.

Bet small, win small. Bet big, lose big.
 

louder

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If I look at it that way, I'll loose nothing if I fill in the pit, forget the whole idea and sell off the new pump and tank. It won't take more than 6 bags of cement mix to finish the floor, and I've got four yards of dirt in a pile out back I canuse to fill the hole with, and length of 8" PVC i can use to funnel the dirt into the hole through the window. About $30 in concrete will fix the floor, and I can sell the new pump and tank for far more than I paid for it.

The bottom line is that if the old pipe it bad, there's nothing here to save. If the well is till able to pump water and the pipe is sound, then its worth reconnecting a pump.
Another thought is to just line the pipe, I have the pex, and use a simple jet pump to draw water from it when needed in emergencies and forget any sort of project making the new cover, concreting in the pit and or setting up a permanent pipe. If i simply extend the pipe, leave it as a plug in the floor, it won't cost me a thing. I'll probably end up with money in pocket vs. a few hundred bucks invested in it.
 

louder

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Not at all, I just don't want to put it off till I'm too old to do the work. I'm still able to do it myself, and I've got most of the stuff here to do what ever needs to be done.
I plan to redo the electrical in the house this spring, once the weather breaks and I don't have to worry about having the power off over night if it comes to that. The pit is right below the breaker panel. I was just thinking that if I have that whole corner all cleaned out to work on the breaker panel, I might as well do the well pit at the same time, or before. I can do the pit now, and it'll be done by the time spring comes around.
 

tomtheelder2020

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Regarding water quality, a water table well is always suspect. The analyses you had done likely included only common contaminants (e.g. some minerals, TDS, nitrates and coliform bacteria). Analyses for less common to exotic contaminants (petroleum products, pesticides, etc.) can be vastly more expensive and require specialized containers and handling. Seasonal fluctuations can move the water table into and out of a contaminated zone. The amount and direction of water table flow can also affect contaminant concentrations.

Regarding deeper wells going dry, those wells are very likely drawing from deeper aquifers that are effectively isolated from the water table aquifer. With lots of people over-using that resource, deeper wells can become necessary. If you are the only one drawing from the water table, the amount you draw is likely to have little to no drawdown except very near the well.
 

louder

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The test was done by a company that was trying to sell water treatment systems because the city water is contaminated with benzene and mercury in some areas here.
The test was for: petroleum compounds, benzene, coliform bacteria, iron, manganese, pH, all volatile organic compounds,, nitrates, phosphates, lead, fecal coliform/ E. coli. plus arsenic, mercury and alpha particle activity. The report was nearly a full page.
The test had a cover sheet and a graph, everything was in the green on the chart.
When I bought the house I was told that they ran city water out this way 60 years ago due to nitrate issues. This used to be farm land here, now its all suburban neighborhoods.

Something that sort of concerns me is that well in the pit is at the same depth as most cesspools here.
I have three cesspools, one at 20ft, one at 25ft, and one at 32ft. The closest is the 20ft cesspool, which is 40ft from the well on the other side of the house. My basement floor is 7ft below grade, the pit is another 5ft deep or so, so the well point is roughly at about 40ft below the avg. grade of the property.
The first thing I did was to drop a string with a weight on it down the well casing to see if there was water at the bottom. There was water at 22ft down to the 27-28ft bottom of the pipe. Its a galvanized 1 1/4" pipe.
When they dug the third cesspool 19 years ago they hit first water at 17ft in the back yard, roughly 75ft from the pit in the basement. Code here then was to dig a cesspool to first water.

Something that bothered me more was that when I decided to put in a tomato garden, I had a soil sample tested and was told that the ground had a high level of fecal bacteria. The garden area was 20ft uphill from my septic system. But likely closer to the neighbors system. No matter where I go anywhere on the property, I'd never been more than 45ft from either mine or someone else's septic system. What I did was to build a raised bed garden using dirt brought in from a nearby farm

Not all houses had deep pits, this house and one next door are the only with super deep pits, the rest had their wells either in the garage or on the basement floor.
 

louder

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No. the house is on city water, the well isn't being used.
I don't drink the city water, too many warnings in the water bill every month.
The city water smells like chlorine and it leaves stains on my pots and pans if you don't dry them after washing. If I fill a bucket with a garden hose, it suds's up like its got soap in it.
I filter my water for cooking and drink only bottled water here. Lately there's been a lot of solid debris in the water, twice last year I had to take faucets apart to get what looked like rocks out of the pipes.
No idea how those got so far into the system. The bits looked like small bits of asphalt pavement.
The water pressure here is pretty low, the water main is 65 years old or more. I replaced the incoming water main from the street 10 years ago with plastic pipe, the pipe was blown out before connecting to the meter so I know there was nothing that got into that pipe during installation. The city water leaves brown rust colored stains on everything. The toilet bowl, tub, sinks, and washer all turn brown with use, but the brown isn't typical rust staining, it wipes right off. Its sort of a greasy residue.
 

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