Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells: A Danger to Our Water Supplies

An orphaned oil or gas well is a well that has been abandoned by its owner and is no longer being maintained. These wells can pose a serious threat to our water supplies, as they can leak oil, gas, and other pollutants into our drinking water.

There are an estimated 3.5 million orphaned wells in the United States. However, the actual number of orphaned wells is likely much higher, as many states do not have comprehensive databases of these wells.

Orphaned wells are often located near water supplies, such as rivers, streams, and aquifers. This is because these areas were often targeted for oil and gas drilling because of the presence of underground resources. It is estimated that a many as 30% or more of orphaned wells are near water.

When an orphaned well leaks, it can contaminate our drinking water with a variety of pollutants, including oil, gas, methane, and heavy metals. These pollutants can cause a variety of health problems, including cancer, respiratory problems, and neurological damage.

In addition to contaminating our drinking water, orphaned wells can also pollute our air and soil. The methane gas that leaks from these wells is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The oil and gas that leaks from these wells can also seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater.

The dangers of orphaned wells are not just environmental. These wells can also pose a safety hazard. If an orphaned well is not properly plugged, it can collapse or explode, causing damage to property and injury to people.

The good news is that there are things that can be done to address the problem of orphaned wells. That’s where Well Done Foundation comes in.  We locate orphaned oil and gas wells and monitor them, plug the wells—thereby immediately eliminating methane and carbon emissions—and restore the surface areas around them.

With continued effort, we can ensure that orphaned wells are no longer a threat to our water supplies, our air, our soil, and our safety.

Here are some additional facts about orphaned oil and gas wells:

  • Orphaned wells can leak up to 100 gallons of oil per day.
  • The cost of plugging an orphaned well can range from $10,000 to $200,000.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that it will cost $10 billion to plug all of the orphaned wells in the United States.
  • Orphaned wells are a major source of methane emissions, which are a potent greenhouse gas.

What can you do to help?

  • Learn about the orphaned wells in your community.
  • Become a WDF member
  • Donate to WDF
  • Volunteer your time to help with the plugging of orphaned wells (membership required).
  • Ask about our speaker’s bureau

By taking these steps, you can help to protect our water supplies and our environment from the dangers of orphaned oil and gas wells.