Mower County is one of the southeast Minnesota counties with grant funds to offer cost-share assistance to landowners seeking to seal an unused well. Under the program, unused wells in vulnerable groundwater areas (highlighted on the map) are the first priority.

Mower SWCD offers cost-share program for sealing unused wells

Priority on Mower County’s most-vulnerable groundwater areas

As part of a 10-county initiative for southeast Minnesota, Mower Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) is seeking Mower County applicants for the program that offers a 50 percent cost share up to $1,000 for sealing an unused well. The program seeks to seal 50 unused wells with a $50,000 state grant in southeast Minnesota’s vulnerable drinking-water areas by the end of 2020.

Mower SWCD hopes to seal up to 10 unused wells by next year under the regional grant, said Tim Ruzek, Mower SWCD’s water plan and outreach coordinator. Overall, cost-share funds for the region total $50,000 for 50 projects through a state grant from the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR).

“We’re going to process applications on a first-come, first-served basis, with the focus this year on interested landowners in our county’s priority areas,” Ruzek said.

All interested landowners should apply, though, in case funds remain in 2020 for wells in non-priority areas, he added.

BWSR awarded the grant that expires at the end of 2020 to the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board (SEMNWRB), which includes 10 member counties, including Mower.

Overall, the regional program seeks to seal unused wells in vulnerable drinking water areas in southeast Minnesota to prevent pollution in aquifers used for public drinking water. Groundwater is the primary source of water for residents in southeast Minnesota. Due to karst geology, southeast Minnesota groundwater is more vulnerable to contamination due to the quick transport of surface pollution to aquifers.

Unused wells should be sealed for physical safety; health and environment; and legal responsibilities, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). An unused well can act like a drain that allows surface water runoff, contaminated water or improperly disposed waste a direct pathway into drinking water sources. When this happens, the quality of everyone’s drinking water is threatened — city water wells, neighbors’ wells; and the landowner’s current well — which is why MDH recommends homeowners test their water annually.

Prioritization of well sealing starts with wells in an identified drinking water supply management area (DWSMA), Wellhead Protection Plan (WPP) or area of documented groundwater contamination. Others are considered after that.

Mower County landowners interested in cost-share assistance for well sealing should contact Tim Ruzek at Mower SWCD at 507–434–2603, ext. 5 or by email at tim@mowerdistrict.org. Those interested also can stop by the Mower SWCD office in Austin between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1408 21st Ave. N.W.

Under the program, Mower SWCD’s Board of Supervisors, which meets monthly on the second Wednesday, must approve each cost-share contract for sealing an unused well.

For more information on sealing unused wells or finding them, visit the Minnesota Department of Health website at: www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/water/wells/sealing/abandwel.html

Formed in 2007, CRWD works to reduce flooding and improve water quality on the Cedar River State Water Trail and its tributaries in southern Minnesota.

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