McLeod Water Wells LLC
22 Propane Lane
Hermon, ME 04401
(207) 848-5520
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Drilling Maine Wells since 1963!

About 40 percent of Maine residents rely on their own sources of drinking water, such as wells, cisterns, and springs. A water well is a hole, usually vertical, drilled into an aquifer to bring water in the ground to the surface from the water-saturated zone above the bedrock. Although people have been using wells since ancient times, most are not familiar with how they work.

Click on any of the bullet points below to learn more about wells, well drilling and how they work.

Ground Water - The Source

Ground water accounts for 90% of all the fresh water in the world (excluding polar ice caps).

Ground water is the water that soaks into the soil from rain, or other precipitation, and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand.

An aquifer is a geologic unit (sand and gravel, sandstone, limestone, or other rock) where the amount of water is sufficient to yield usable amounts to a well or spring.

Those living outside a municipality or in an area not served by public water, will typically get their water from a private well. Water wells are usually installed by professional well-drillers, with the plumbing handled by a plumbing contractor.

There are two basic types of wells - shallow and deep.

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Shallow Wells

A shallow well is used when the water table (top surface of the ground water) is high - anywhere from 10 feet to 400 feet below the surface. Shallow wells are less expensive to install, but rapid, or large changes, in water levels can be expected during periods of heavy rains. The well may go dry during a drought when the ground water table drops. They are also more likely to be contaminated from surface contaminants.

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Deep (Drilled) Wells

Drilled wells are deep wells - penetrating 100-400 feet into the bedrock. To serve as a water supply, a drilled well must intersect bedrock fractures containing ground water.

The casing is usually a steel casing pipe six inches in diameter that extends into the bedrock to prevent shallow ground water from entering the well.

By code, the casing is recommended to extend at least 20 feet into the ground, with a minimum of 10 feet extending into the bedrock. The casing should also extend a foot or two above the ground's surface.

Submersible pumps, usually located off the bottom of the well, are most commonly used in drilled wells. Well pumps should be installed and serviced by a qualified professional registered with your state.

Water Wells

Most modern drilled wells incorporate a pitless adapter designed to provide a sanitary seal at the point where the discharge water line leaves the well to enter your home. The device attaches directly to the casing below the frost line and provides a watertight subsurface connection, protecting the well from frost and contamination.

Older wells may lack some of these sanitary features. The well pipe used was 6 inches in diameter, and covered with a concrete well cap either at, or below, the ground surface. This outmoded type of construction does not provide the same degree of protection from surface contamination. Also, older wells may not have a pitless adapter to provide a seal at the point of discharge from the well.


While deep wells are less likely to be contaminated, routine testing of the water supply is needed. It is the responsibility of the well owner to have a water testing inspection done by a qualified professional.

(see Water Quality below)

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Abandoned Wells

An abandoned well is any water well that is no longer used to supply water, or is in such a state of disrepair that the well has the potential for transmitting contaminants into an aquifer, or otherwise threatens the public health or safety.

Underground water is constantly moving. It flows through pores in the soil and through cracks and crevices in the rock. As water moves, it picks up pollutants with which it comes in contact.

Abandoned wells are a hazard to the water we all drink, even for those who use municipal water.

If a well is left unsealed, the natural underground aquifer can become polluted. If the shaft of the well is left open, or the well casing cracks and deteriorates, pollutants such as sewage, pesticides, fertilizers, or other hazardous materials can seep into underground water making it harmful to drink.

Most states require that abandoned wells be properly sealed within 30 days of connection to a public water supply or notification from the health department. A permit is generally required.

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The Mechanicals

(Pumps/ Pressure Tanks/ Filters/ Treatment)

Once the well has been drilled, the water in the well is available for use, but it must be extracted from the well and delivered under pressure to the building.

This is accomplished by means of a well pump and a pressurized tank. The pump pressurizes the system as it extracts the water from the well and conveys it to the tank. The tank acts as a pressure regulator to the system by maintaining a constant outlet pressure.

(see Water Quality below)

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Well Repairs, Buried Wells, and Wells in Pits

If repairs are needed to make the well operational or to bring it into compliance with the Private Water Supply Ordinance, you may be required to obtain a repair permit from the Health Department. The work must be completed within a specified time, usually 30 days from when your well was inspected and the problem noted.

If you have a buried seal well or a well in a pit, it must be upgraded to meet the provisions of the Private Water Supply Ordinance. This type of work requires a well repair permit from the Health Department.

Provisions in the Private Water Supply Ordinance mandate that supplemental wells must meet code requirements or be sealed. Water well sealing must be done by a state licensed water well contractor, or may be done by the owner-occupant with prior approval from the County Health Department.

(see Water Quality below)

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Water Well Problems

Many homeowners tend to forget the value of good maintenance until problems reach crisis levels. That can be expensive. Maintain your well, find the problems early, and correct them in order to protect your well's performance.

Keep up-to-date records of well installation and repairs plus pumping and water tests. Such records can help spot changes and possible problems with your water system. If you have problems, ask a local expert to check your well construction and maintenance records. He or she can see if your system is okay or needs work.

The safety of any water supply is largely dependent on the construction and maintenance of the water system. Below is a list of common well system problems that can spell trouble if their symptoms are ignored:

(see Water Quality below)

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Most Common Water Well Problems/Causes

  • Well pump turns on when water is in use.
  • Water system leak.
    • Check the inside plumbing for leaks.
    • If none are found, check outside for wet spots in the yard between the well and the house.
    • Consult with a well contractor if you cannot determine the source of the leak.
  • Well pump turns on and off continuously when used.
  • Pressure tank is waterlogged.
    • Draining and repressurizing the pressure tank may correct the problem. If you do not know how to do this, you may need to contact a well contractor.
  • Poor water pressure.
    • Improper pump setting on the pressure switch.
    • Most pressure switches are set to turn the well pump on at 30 p.s.i. (pounds per square inch) and off at 50 p.s.i. contact a well contractor to adjust the pressure switch accordingly.

(see Water Quality below)

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Water Quality

As ground water moves through the ground, it dissolves some of the minerals that it comes in contact with. Those dissolved minerals give ground water its chemical character or quality. Many bottled waters come from ground water reserves.

Ground water is naturally filtered by the earth that holds it. It can, however, be contaminated by pollutants that come into contact with the earth's surface.

Proper well construction and continued maintenance are keys to the safety of your water supply. Your state water-well contractor licensing agency, local health department, or local water system professional can provide information on well construction.

  • The well should be located so rainwater flows away from it. Rainwater can pick up harmful bacteria and chemicals on the land's surface. If this water pools near your well, it can seep into it, potentially causing health problems.
  • To keep your well safe, you must be sure possible sources of contamination are not close by. Experts suggest the following distances as a minimum for protection:
    • Septic tanks, 60 feet
    • Livestock yards, silos, septic leach fields, 50 feet
    • Patroleum tanks, liquid-tight manure storage and fertilizer storage and handling, 100 feet
    • Manure stacks, 250 feet

NOTE: State and local regulations will vary. Contact your County Health Department for compliance standards in your area.

  • Water-well drillers and pump-well installers should be bonded and insured. Make certain your ground water contractor is registered or licensed in your state, if required. If your state does not have a licensing/registration program contact the National Ground Water Association.
  • Protect your own well area. Be careful about storage and disposal of household and lawn care chemicals and wastes. Good farmers and gardeners minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides. Take steps to reduce erosion and prevent surface water runoff. Regularly check underground storage tanks that hold home heating oil, diesel, or gasoline. Make sure your well is protected from the wastes of livestock, pets, and wildlife.

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Bacteria, Minerals Or Other Impurities

Underground water is constantly moving. It flows through pores in the soil and through cracks and crevices in the rock. As water moves, it picks up pollutants with which it comes in contact.

Protect your water supply by carefully managing activities near the water source. For households using a domestic well, this includes keeping contaminants away from sinkholes and the well itself. Keep hazardous chemicals out of septic systems.

Periodically inspect exposed parts of the well for problems such as:

  • Cracked, corroded, or damaged well casing.
  • Check the electrical wiring to the well.
    • Ideally, the wires should be enclosed in metal conduit between the well and ground, and between the basement wall and the pressure switch. If the electrical system appears to be damaged, call a well contractor to repair it immediately.
  • Broken or missing well cap
    • If the well casing extends above the ground, make sure the cap fits tightly onto the casing and is in good condition. If the cap is loose, tighten it. If it is damaged, replace it.
  • Settling and cracking of surface seals. Slope the area around the well to drain surface runoff away from the well.
  • Install a well cap or sanitary seal to prevent unauthorized use of, or entry into, the well.
  • Have the well tested once a year for coliform bacteria, nitrates, and other constituents of concern.
  • Keep accurate records of any well maintenance, such as disinfection or sediment removal, that may require the use of chemicals in the well.
  • Hire a certified well driller for any new well construction, modification, or abandonment and closure.
  • Avoid mixing or using pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, degreasers, fuels, and other pollutants near the well.
  • Do not cut off the well casing below the land surface.
  • Never dispose of harsh chemicals, solvents, petroleum products, or pesticides in a dry or abandoned well.

Installing a water-conditioning unit can reduce water hardness and iron content. Other water quality problems may sometimes be solved through disinfection of the well water distribution system.

High mineral or iron content may require the need for a whole house water filter.

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Well Hydrofracturing

Hydrofracturing, commonly referred to as hydrofracking or simply 'fracking, is a water well development process that involves injecting water under high pressure into a bedrock formation via the well. This is intended to increase the size and extent of existing bedrock fractures, thereby enlarging the network of water-bearing fractures as well as the size of the area supplying water to the well.

The procedure is often used to increase well yields of newly-drilled wells with marginal or inadequate production rates. It may also be applied to older, existing wells that have progressively diminished production over time, which is usually an effect of mineralization and incrustation of rock fractures.

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