Release of observation wells

                         GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
                      WATER RESOURCES DIVISION
                         Washington, D. C.

In reply refer to:                               February 1, 1954


To:       Ground Water Field Supervisors

From:     Chief, Ground Water Branch

Subject:  Release of observation wells

On a number of occasions the question has been raised as to the
legality of releasing ground-water observation wells to the owner
of the property, upon which they may be situated, after they have
served their purpose of providing geologic and hydrologic
information.  The Survey viewpoint has consistently been to the
effect that it had no legal authority for releasing such wells and
it, accordingly, followed the practice of plugging the abandoned
wells and placing the property as nearly as possible in the same
condition as that which existed prior to the test well drilling.

In connection with the possible disposition of certain wells in
Virginia, the opinion of the Solicitor of the Department of the
Interior was requested as to whether observation wells could be
released to serve as a source of water supply after they had
served their initial purpose.  Herewith for your information and
guidance is a copy of the Solicitor's opinion.

It should be noted that the Solicitor ruled that there is no legal
prohibition against releasing observation wells after they have
served their purpose, provided that all equipment is removed
therefrom and the Federal Government is released from any tort
liability in connection with the release of such wells.  It is
apparent therefore, that because any useable equipment must be
removed, the net effect of the decision is to permit the turning
over to a landowner of a hole in the ground.

The release of an observation well to private parties requires
that an administrative decision be made as to the appropriateness
of the release and the protection afforded the government in
specific cases.  Accordingly you are instructed to keep in mind
the necessity of requesting administrative approval of the
Washington office for the release of any observation wells no
longer to be continued in use for geologic and hydrologic
purposes.  In making request for such administrative approval, you
should provide complete information regarding the history of the
well, its condition with respect to equipment that would remain in
the well and also a statement of the prospective use.

                                   (s) A. N. Sayre
                                   Chief, Ground Water Branch