The role of policy and collaboration in decommissioning exempt water wells in Washington state Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/hx11xm21r

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  • The rapid proliferation of exempt wells since the settlement of the West has left the State of Washington with little knowledge of the existing number of exempt wells within its boundaries. Exempt wells are primarily a rural phenomena that when abandoned leave aquifers vulnerable to contaminants and create a general safety hazard to those living, working, or playing in their vicinity. Two main questions are addressed within this study: (1) how do you identify exempt wells within Washington; and (2) what local policies, collaboration, and economic/demographic factors influence exempt well identification and proper decommissioning during the study period of 2001 through 2011. The first question is addressed through constructing exempt well criteria that can predict exempt wells out of the total well population in five sample counties—Grays Harbor, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, and Skagit. Pipe diameter, bore method, and designated beneficial use had the highest predictive power with a 91% success rate. From the total sample size for decommissioned and drilled, all sample counties combined had 80.8% of exempt wells decommissioned with 96.9% of exempt wells drilled during the 2001-2011 period. There is a lack of knowledge on how many exempt wells are being decommissioned; therefore, these findings offer a quantitative estimate for the State of Washington. The second question of local policies, level of collaboration, and economic/demographic factors showed likely explanatory patterns in the five sample counties, where each had its own set of local policies, collaboration, and economic/demographic factors. Three main themes emerged from these data. First, exempt wells have a major role in urban expansion. In addition, the type of local health board and local economic conditions, particularly the presence of a recession, affect the finding and decommission of exempt wells. Because the effect from local policies, collaboration, and economic/demographic factors was not strong, the conclusion is exempt well decommissioning should be studied from a broader perspective. It is recommended for future studies to approach the topic with a broad, landscape framework that includes urban-rural, public health (i.e. local health boards), and economic health factors in the analysis.
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