Old well unearthed accidently

The concrete cap over an old water well behind the Hillsboro True Value Hardware store caved in Wednesday morning, exposing a 50-foot deep hole.

Tom Koslowsky, co-owner of Hillsboro True Value Hardware, said a contributing factor may have been dual-wheeled tire marks imprinted in the gravel next to the well.

?We were unloading our delivery truck (behind the store) and the (Hillsboro) sanitation truck drove around (the semi) and over the well,? he said.

The exposed well was first noticed by Byron Noeth, Kansas state meat inspector, who was at Dale?s Supermarket.

When Koslowsky became aware of the situation, he called city officials to determine what needed to be done.

Ben Steketee, Hillsboro code officer and building inspector, said the well covering was most likely in a deteriorated state. He speculated on how the well cap might have fallen into the deep hole.

?It?s possible the two sets of dual wheels on the (sanitation) truck could have had enough surface area to traverse (over the well),? he said.

Steketee also questioned sanitation employees as to whether they felt anything after driving over the area. He said the employees didn?t notice anything unusual.

The well?s opening is about 2 feet in diameter, Steketee said, and the structure is at least 100 years old. Now that the well is exposed, Steketee said he wants to make sure it is filled in correctly this time.

Before Koslowsky can do that, Steketee said he needed to talk with county and state officials about proper procedures.

If the cap was covering a cistern, then all that would be required is filling it in with sand. But this well was hand-dug, which is exposed to groundwater and affects the water table.

Steketee said, after talking to county officials, the groundwater inside the well first was sanitized.

?Once the groundwater is decontaminated,? he said, ?then sand, screening and gravel will be used to fill it in.?

A 1-foot-thick cap was placed over the well completing the repair. IThe work took about four hours Thursday morning.

Steketee said he couldn?t find a city code that addressed capping wells, or a plumbing code dealing with the issue, which is why he yielded to county and state officials for guidance.

Because the well is on the store?s property, Koslowsky said they are responsible for fixing the problem.

?We know there are a lot of these old cisterns in town,? Koslowsky said, ?and we need to be mindful of them.?

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