Testing now underway for suddenly dry water wells

By Sarah Pridgeon

Testing has begun in an effort to solve the mystery of water wells on private property near Carlile suddenly running dry or producing overly acidic water. The Department of Environmental Quality is now conducting tests on the wells primarily affected as well as a number in the surrounding area, says Lily Lee, Groundwater Section Manager.

The DEQ was notified of the issue in the middle of August. According to a local landowner, two wells serving four homes dried up quite literally overnight after functioning perfectly for 17 years.

Testing began at the end of October. In the interests of moving swiftly to resolve the problem, Lee says, the DEQ opted not to follow the process of finding and hiring a contractor.

“We decided that we would take care of the sampling on our own, so DEQ staff members are out there doing the sampling because it would just take too long to try to get a contractor in,” she says.

At this time, Lee continues, it’s difficult to say exactly how long the testing will take to complete.

“It depends on the number of wells that come in from various homeowners if they’re within the area, so we’re taking the information based on the calls we receive and seeing if they’re in the area we’re looking at. It takes probably about 1.5 to two hours per well to conduct the sampling,” she explains.

In week two, for example, around 20 wells were tested. The DEQ received permission from 14 landowners, but many of the properties have multiple wells.

“One landowner had about seven wells on their property,” says Lee, as an example.

It’s very early days to draw conclusions from the testing, according to Lee, but early indications suggest the issue may be confined to the four wells that were initially identified.

“They’ve been collecting the information and sending it off to the labs,” she says. “The field testing that they’ve done doesn’t seem to be beyond the four impacted wells that we’ve identified with low pH, but we are waiting for the analytical results from the laboratory.”

Lee notes that the DEQ is still interested to hear from any landowners in the area experiencing problems or willing to take part in the testing.

“This isn’t the town of Carlile having the issue, it’s further south. It’s close, but our study area is around the Spring Creek Rd and the highway there,” says Lee.

“We will still take any information that comes in and evaluate it to see if it’s in the area. I know that some of the questions have been: should I be concerned about my well? How do I know if I’m impacted or not? We’ll certainly answer any questions.”

Contact Lee at lily.lee@wyo.gov. Once the results of the tests are in hand, she says, the DEQ plans to sit down with the involved landowners and also provide an update for the community.