The Alamance County Environmental Health Section devotes a tremendous amount of time trying to protect our water supplies. Through our locally adopted Well Regulations, Alamance County permits and inspects drinking water wells and irrigation wells. This includes finding suitable sites that wells can be drilled and ensuring that wells are located the proper distances from sources of contamination. This also includes inspecting wells after they are drilled to ensure they were drilled in the proper area and to ensure the cement grout placed around the well is done properly. Alamance County Environmental Health also permits and inspects the repair and abandonment of wells.
Alamance County also samples a large number of wells yearly, and we provide guidance to well owners to correct their water quality problems.
For more information on water sampling, please click here.
- Applying for Well Permits and Water Samples
- Interpreting Water Sample Results
- Types of Water Samples
- Disinfection of Wells
- Well Abandonment
- Certified Well Contractors
- Local Well Regulations
To get a well permit, simply complete the Well Permit Application and return to our office with the appropriate fee. After the application and fee is submitted to Environmental Health, an Environmental Health Specialist will visit your property and determine the best location for a new well to be drilled. Many factors are evaluated in determining a well site. Factors include the following:
- Distance to potential sources of contamination, such as septic systems, creeks or streams, ponds or lakes, petroleum fuel underground storage tanks, landfills, etc.
- Topography and landscape position, such as gullies, low-lying areas subject to flooding, areas in close proximity to overhead power lines, etc.
- Available space
Once a well site is determined, the Environmental Health Specialist will issue a well construction permit. Please be aware that in some cases a well may not be able to be permitted. Sometimes additional paperwork (i.e., variance) may be necessary from another government agency (e.g., Division of Water Quality, Division of Environmental Health). A well construction permit is valid for a period of five years.
After receiving a well construction permit, you must hire a North Carolina Certified Well Contractor to drill the well. This Well Contractor must also be registered in Alamance County. The Well Contractor will need a copy of your well construction permit prior to drilling the well.
If you want a water sample collected from your well, simply complete the Water Sample Application and return it to our office with the appropriate fee. After submitting your application and fee, an Environmental Health Specialist will visit your property and collect the water samples for which you applied. These samples are then shipped to a N.C. Certified Laboratory for analysis. The time it takes to get the results back from the lab varies depending on the sample.
***If you are experiencing water quality issues with your well, we strongly advise contacting a water treatment specialist or a Certified Well Contractor.
Most of the recommended limits or maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for inorganics in water supplies are as follows:
- Antimony - MCL = 0.006 mg/L. May decrease growth and longevity. Potential sources are industrial discharges or from tin/antimony solder used in plumbing.
- Arsenic - MCL = 0.010mg/L. Carcinogenic properties have been ascribed to arsenic. Its presence may be due to natural deposits, industrial discharges or pesticides.
- Barium - MCL = 2 mg/L. Occurs only in trace amounts in drinking water and rarely exceeds 1 mg/L.
- Beryllium - MCL = 0.004 mg/L. Beryllium is very poisonous. It is used in atomic reactors, aircraft, rockets and missile fuels. It is through discharges of such industries that it may enter water.
- Cadmium - MCL = 0.005 mg/L. Cadmium is toxic and may be carcinogenic. It may enter water as a result of industrial pollution or deterioration of galvanized pipe.
- Chloride - MCL = 250 mg/L. High chloride levels may harm pipes, as well as impart an unpleasant salty taste.
- Chromium - MCL = 0.10 mg/L. Chromium salts are used in industrial processes and may enter a water supply through industrial discharge.
- Copper - MCL = 1.3 mg/L. It may impart a metallic taste to water and cause greenish stains on faucets and plumbing fixtures.
- Cyanide - MCL = 0.2 mg/L. Can cause spleen, brain and liver damage. It is used in electroplating, steel processing, plastics, synthetic fibers, fertilizer and farm products.
- Fluoride - MCL = 4.0 mg/L. Fluorides are found mostly in groundwater as a natural constituent.
- Iron - MCL = 0.3 mg/L. Iron in water can cause staining of laundry and porcelain. It may give the water an astringent taste.
- Lead - MCL = 0.015 mg/L. Lead is a cumulative poison. In a water supply it may occur where piping material or pipe joint compound contains lead.
- Manganese - MCL = 0.05 mg/L. Manganese can cause objectionable stains to laundry and fixtures.
- Mercury - MCL = 0.002 mg/L. Mercury is very toxic and its presence may be associated with industrial water and agricultural applications.
- Nitrate - MCL = 10 mg/L (as nitrogen). Serious poisonings in infants have occurred following ingestion of well water containing nitrate nitrogen at concentrations greater than 10 mg/L. This problem is known as methemoglobinemia and is generally confined to infants less than three months old. The presence of nitrates is usually due to animal wastes and fertilizers. Boiling water does not remove nitrates but instead concentrates them.
- Nitrite - MCL = 1mg/L (as nitrogen). Nitrite is the actual etiologic agent of methemoglobenemia. It results from oxidation of ammonia or reduction of nitrates. May occur in natural water or water distribution systems.
- Nickel - MCL = 0.1 mg/L. May affect the heart and liver. Can enter water supplies through discharges from battery, ceramics, or glass production.
- pH - MCL = 6.5 - 8.5. A soft acid water may leach metals from plumbing causing staining problems, metallic tastes or deleterious health effects.
- Selenium - MCL = 0.05 mg/L. It is an essential trace nutrient, but may be toxic above trace levels. Natural levels in groundwater may be due to soil types. Selenium may be leached from coal ash and fly ash at electric power plants that burn seleniferous coal. Silver - MCL = 0.10 mg/L. Exposure to silver in drinking water may cause argyria (a discoloration of the skin). Health effects are only cosmetic.
- Sulfate - MCL = 250 mg/L. May naturally be present in groundwater. Its sodium and magnesium salts exert a cathartic action.
- Thallium - MCL = 0.002 mg/L. Affects the brain, kidneys, and liver. Its presence may be associated with electronics or glass industries.
- Total Dissolved Solids - MCL = 500 mg/L. Waters with high dissolved solids are unpalatable and may be unsuitable for many industrial applications.
- Zinc - MCL = 5 mg/L. Zinc may cause a bitter astringent taste and opalescence in alkaline water. Most often enters the water supply through the deterioration of galvanized iron pipes.
You may also click here for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) National Primary Drinking Water Regulations for inorganics. For the EPA's National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations, click here.
To see the maximum contaminant levels (MCLs) for organics, please click here.
The Alamance County Environmental Health Section collects many different types of water samples. Our trained Environmental Health Specialists come to your property to collect the sample(s), and the sample(s) is then shipped to a North Carolina Certified Laboratory for analysis. Please keep in mind that we can only collect water samples from drinking water wells with a properly functioning well pump. The following is a brief description of the different types of water sampling we offer:
- Bacteriological - Samples are examined for the presence of the coliform group of bacteria, which are indicators of fecal contamination. Water is not examined for pathogenic bacteria, as the prospect of isolating them from water is very remote. Open wells, unprotected springs, or any water source with visible evidence of contamination are unsafe for drinking purposes, regardless of laboratory findings.
- Inorganic Chemicals - These samples are routinely analyzed for alkalinity, arsenic, calcium, chloride, copper, hardness, lead, iron, magnesium, manganese, pH, fluoride, and zinc.
- Nitrates/Nitrites - These samples also fall under the category of inorganic chemicals, but we can also sample for these separately. Nitrates/nitrites can be found in areas near hog farms, chicken houses, or heavy fertilization.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - solvents and gasoline
- Pesticides - Pesticide sampling may be important in areas where someone is applying products to kill pests, such as rodents, mites, mosquitoes, etc.
To abandon a well in Alamance County, you must first complete a Well Permit Application indicating you want a well abandonment, and submit this to our Department. There is no charge for this application.
The following are the rules for well abandonments in North Carolina:
15A NCAC 02C .0113 ABANDONMENT OF WELLS
(a) Any well which is temporarily removed from service shall be temporarily abandoned in
accordance with the following procedures:
(1) The well shall be sealed with a water-tight cap or well seal, as defined in G.S. 87-85
(16), compatible with the casing and installed so that it cannot be removed without
the use of hand tools or power tools.
(2) The well shall be maintained whereby it is not a source or channel of contamination
during temporary abandonment.
(b) Permanent abandonment of water supply wells other than bored or hand dug wells shall be performed in accordance with the following procedures:
(1) All casing and screen materials may be removed prior to initiation of abandonment
procedures if such removal will not cause or contribute to contamination of the
groundwaters. Any casing not grouted in accordance with 15A NCAC 02C .0107(f)
shall be removed or grouted in accordance with 15A NCAC 02C .0107(f).
(2) The entire depth of the well shall be sounded before it is sealed to ensure freedom
from obstructions that may interfere with sealing operations.
(3) Except in the case of temporary wells and monitoring wells, the well shall be
disinfected in accordance with Rule .0111(b)(1)(A) through .0111(b)(1)(C) of this
(4) In the case of gravel-packed wells in which the casing and screens have not been
removed, neat-cement or bentonite slurry grout shall be injected into the well
completely filling it from the bottom of the casing to the top.
(5) Wells constructed in unconsolidated formations shall be completely filled with grout
by introducing it through a pipe extending to the bottom of the well which can be
raised as the well is filled.
(6) Wells constructed in consolidated rock formations or that penetrate zones of
consolidated rock may be filled with grout, sand, gravel or drill cuttings opposite the
zones of consolidated rock. The top of any sand, gravel or cutting fill shall terminate
at least 10 feet below the top of the consolidated rock or five feet below the bottom of
casing. Grout shall be placed beginning 10 feet below the top of the consolidated
rock or five feet below the bottom of casing in a manner to ensure complete filling of
the casing, and extend up to land surface. For any well in which the depth of casing
or the depth of the bedrock is not known or cannot be confirmed, the entire length of
the well shall be filled with grout up to land surface.
(c) For bored wells or hand dug water supply wells constructed into unconsolidated material:
(1) The well shall be disinfected in accordance with Rule .0111(b)(1)(A) through
.0111(b)(1)(C) of this Section.
(2) All plumbing or piping in the well and any other obstructions inside the well shall be
removed from the well.
(3) The uppermost three feet of well casing shall be removed from the well.
(4) All soil or other subsurface material present down to the top of the remaining well
casing shall be removed, including the material extending to a width of at least 12
inches outside of the well casing.
(5) The well shall be filled to the top of the remaining casing with grout, dry clay, or
material excavated during construction of the well. If dry clay or material excavated
during construction of the well is used, it shall be emplaced in lifts no more than five
feet thick, each compacted in place prior to emplacement of the next lift.
(6) A six-inch thick concrete grout plug shall be placed on top of the remaining casing
such that it covers the entire excavated area above the top of the casing, including the
area extending to a width of at least 12 inches outside the well casing.
(7) The remainder of the well above the concrete plug shall be filled with grout or soil.
(d) All wells other than water supply wells including temporary wells, monitoring wells or test
(1) less than 20 feet in depth and which do not penetrate the water table shall be
abandoned by filling the entire well up to land surface with grout, dry clay, or
material excavated during drilling of the well and then compacted in place; and
(2) greater than 20 feet in depth or that penetrate the water table shall be abandoned by
completely filling with a bentonite or cement-type grout.
(e) Any well which acts as a source or channel of contamination shall be repaired or permanently abandoned within 30 days of receipt of notice from the Department.
(f) All wells shall be permanently abandoned in which the casing has not been installed or from which the casing has been removed, prior to removing drilling equipment from the site.
(g) The owner is responsible for permanent abandonment of a well except that:
(1) the well contractor is responsible for well abandonment if abandonment is required
because the well contractor improperly locates, constructs, repairs or completes the
(2) the person who installs, repairs or removes the well pump is responsible for well
abandonment if that abandonment is required because of improper well pump
installation, repair or removal; or
(3) the well contractor (or individual) who conducts a test boring is responsible for its
abandonment at the time the test boring is completed and has fulfilled its useful
History Note: Authority G.S. 87-87; 87-88;
Eff. February 1, 1976;
Amended Eff. September 1, 2009, April 1, 2001; December 1, 1992; September 1,
1984; April 20, 1978.
The Certified Well Contractor list provides you with all well contractors that are registered in Alamance County and that are certifed with the state of North Carolina. Please contact a Certified Well Contractor from this list if you want to:
- drill a well on your property
- repair a well on your property (e.g., install a liner, raise the well casing, etc.)
- abandon a well on your property
- hydrofracture an exisiting well on your property to get more water (increase well yield)