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Residential Well Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Read the
Private Well Program:
Annual Report (PDF)

to find out more about
our program!

How do I contact the Private Well Program?
Here is our contact information.

What should I do if my well runs dry?

What should I do if I want to have a well installed?
Either you or the well driller submits a Notice of Intent (NOI) form to SCDHEC with the associated fee. You can fax the NOI and a copy of the check to our toll free fax number: 1-888-761-6681, or you can mail the NOI and the fee to : SCDHEC, Private Well Program, 2600 Bull Street, Columbia, SC, 29201. The fee for each individual residential well is $70.00 and the fee for each irrigation well is $50.00.

How do I select a well driller?
If you are not familiar with the well drillers in your area, you can contact the Private Well Program and we can provide names of drillers. You may want to contact more than one driller to get a competitive price. The driller must be licensed to drill in South Carolina. You can check with the Private Well Program or the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation at (803)896-4430 to confirm his registration, or you can have the driller show you a photo ID and pocket card.

picture of a well driller's licenseWhat is a pocket card?
It is a card issued to each driller when he becomes licensed or renews his license.

What's grout?
Grout is a cement or bentonite or bentonite/cement mixture that is picture of a properly grouted wellpumped into the space between the hole that is drilled and the casing of the well. The regulations require that the well have grout from twenty (20) feet deep to land surface. You should be able to see a ring of cement or bentonite around the well at the surface; this is very important as the grout prevents surface run-off, possibly containing contaminants, from running down into the well.

How many people use residential wells in South Carolina?
More than 560,000 people in South Carolina use a residential well as their primary source of drinking water.

Is a well a safe source of water?
A well can provide a safe, clean source of drinking water. However, if the well is improperly constructed, there may be a threat of contamination, most likely from bacteria. Situations where the groundwater becomes contaminated, while rare, would also affect the water quality from the well.

When should I test my water and what should I test it for?
Generally, you should only have your water tested if you are experiencing problems such as discoloration or odors. The Residential Well Program offers two analytical services. One is a Coliform Bacteria test. The bacteria test analyzes for Total Coliform bacteria. If this bacteria is present, we then test for Fecal Coliform bacteria (fee charged). The presence of Fecal Coliform bacteria is a good indicator of well construction defects. Also, we can test the water for a metals and minerals test (fee charged), which includes Nitrates, Lead, Alkalinity, pH, Calcium, Magnesium, Hardness, Chloride, Iron, Copper, Manganese and Zinc. Other parameters should be handled by a private laboratory. However, if you feel you have legitimate concern for a parameter not listed, contact your local EQC Regional Office.

How do I go about getting my water tested?
You should contact your local Health Department for information on obtaining one of our specially treated sample collection bottles. Please be sure to inquire with the Health Department staff as to the correct time to collect and submit a bacteria sample. For the metals and minerals test, simply provide at least one-half gallon of water in a clean, spill-proof plastic container labeled with your name, telephone number, and address to the same location. When submitting this sample, you will need to complete a Metals and Minerals Analysis Request form (SCDHEC 1905). Please print legibly as this form will be used to report your results back to you by mail. Older versions of this form are titled Routine Chemical Analysis. It typically takes 2 weeks to receive results for the bacteria analysis, and about 2 months for the metals and minerals analysis.

Please limit to one unfiltered sample per analysis per well. It is not the purpose or goal of DHEC to test the quality of filtration or treatment devices.

How much will these tests cost me?
Costs for bacteriological tests are incorporated into the permit fee. These same tests can be performed by a private lab at a cost to the client. Well owners 65 years of age and over or on public assistance such as Medicade, can receive one bacteriological analysis and one metals and minerals analysis per year at no charge (proof of age or assistance is necessary). A private lab can also provide the results faster and at a guaranteed date, while DHEC can not. Because DHEC is a public agency, samples tested by DHEC become public information, and are accessible to anyone requesting them via the Freedom of Information Office.

When will I know the results from my sample?
Results from the bacteria analysis typically take 2 weeks to be received by the client. The chemical analysis can take 6-8 weeks, or more, due to the complex nature of the analysis, and the workload of the lab. Once the results are completed, they will be mailed to the client along with an explanation.

What if I don't understand the results or have other questions?
Contact your local DHEC EQC Office, health department, or the the Residential Well Program Manager.

What do I do if my water is not safe to drink?
It is rare that a well will not provide a safe source of drinking water. However, if your well is contaminated by bacteria, you need to disinfect your well immediately. DHEC provides written instructions on this activity with any report which shows the presence of bacteria. We are also available for you to call if you are still unsure. Also, it is advisable for the client to determine the possible source of the contamination and eliminate it.

Should I buy a water treatment device, and if so, what type is best?
There are many types of water treatment devices for sale. Your best bet is to go to a home improvement store and speak with a sales associate about your problem. Get information on several brands and decide which one appears to best suit your needs. A good source of information about the effectiveness of these devices is the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). You can also contact them at 1-800-673-6275. The NSF tests these devices for accuracy and places their seal of approval on the ones it finds are effective. Some devices which are tested by the NSF, but fail the test, will be labeled "Tested to NSF Standards" or other variations of this. This only implies the product was tested to the standards, but may not have passed.

Are there regulations concerning the way a well must be constructed?
Yes. In 1985 the South Carolina Legislature enacted the South Carolina Well Standards and Regulations. These regulations outline the minimum requirements for well construction in South Carolina. A survey performed recently found that approximately 70% of the drinking water wells surveyed which were installed since the regulations were enacted failed to meet the regulations completely. The most predominant errors cited were no identification plates and improper grouting, or even no grouting. While a lack of an identification plate will not affect your health, it is very important that a well be properly grouted to prevent surface water from contaminating the well.

How can I tell if my well meets these regulations?
A visual inspection can determine if your well meets certain requirements. First, look to see if the well casing extends at least 12" above the ground surface and is capped by a sanitary seal. You should also see a cement ring or bentonite ring around the casing at the ground surface. These prohibit migration of surface water, along with insects, rodents, and other objects into the well. An identification tag with driller informatoin and well depth should be attached to the well.

Who do I talk to if I feel that my well is not constructed properly?
In the event your well does not meet the regulations, and was installed after they were enacted, you may want to contact your well driller first. If this does not correct the problem, contact your local SCDHEC District EQC Office for more information.

Bureau of Water . Phone: (803) 898-4300 . Fax: (803) 898-3795 . Contact Us