EAA launching program to address abandoned wells in Bexar County

Abandoned, uncapped wells pose threat to aquifer

BOERNE, Texas – The Edwards Aquifer Authority recently checked out a well near the "Cave Without A Name’ in an attempt to demonstrate how an uncapped well could impact South Texas’s main water source.

The well sits over the Trinity Aquifer, but the EAA has begun using it as an example of how an abandoned well might look in Bexar County, which sits over the ever-important Edwards Aquifer.  

"It’s the water source for approximately 2 million people,” Roger Andrade, the Edward Aquifer Groundwater Protection manager said. 

The reason this particular well was used is because of its easy access, and the fact that it travels down into a cave -- giving a first-hand view of what happens underground. The "Cave Without A Name" also closely simulates an aquifer’s structure, minus the water.  

A fiber optic camera is sent down the well some 100 feet and underground. The camera, as it emerges into the cave, shows the direct connection.

Thousands of wells draw from the Edwards Aquifer due to the fact it has not always been a regulated water source. 

"In Bexar County, there are potentially some 6,000 wells," Andrade said.

Out of that, a total of around 140 wells in Bexar County are abandoned. The forgotten wells can become an open door for pollution to contaminate the aquifer not just from above, but from below the surface too.    

"It might come from a leaking petroleum storage tank,” Jim Boenig, director of aquifer protection said. “It might be from dry cleaners, any type of industry that uses different chemicals."

Once contamination happens, not much can be done to remove the chemicals from the water source. As a result, in 2018, the EAA is focusing their mission to identify abandoned wells in Bexar County. It is a program that has already been successfully completed in both Hays and Comal counties. 

"This is an effort to do the best job that we can of registering all those wells, determining their condition and reducing the risk,” Boenig said.  

The EAA plans to help landowners who may not know what to do with an abandoned well. They also hope to provide equipment to determine if the well is a risk, with the end result a potentially cleaner, safer Edwards Aquifer.

The initiative could last into 2019.  

About the Author:

Justin Horne is a meteorologist and reporter for KSAT 12 News. When severe weather rolls through, Justin will hop in the KSAT 12 Storm Chaser to safely bring you the latest weather conditions from across South Texas. On top of delivering an accurate forecast, Justin often reports on one of his favorite topics: Texas history.