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Focus on Wells and Well Water

Many people find that when they buy an old Bulgarian property there is a quaint little water well in the garden, which accesses an underground water supply. Many use a simplistic bucket and pulley mechanism whilst others may be more sophisticated drawing water by an electric or mechanical pump. Wells differ greatly in depth, water volume and water quality and whilst well water usually contains more minerals than surface water it can also contain chemicals that are extremely dangerous to your health.

In days gone by, shallow wells provided Bulgarian villagers with drinking water but over the years research has shown that impurities from the surface can easily reach shallow water resources creating the risk of contamination. As Bulgaria strives to conform to new EU regulations about water purification and irrigation, new laws exist regarding the ownership of private water wells and it is vital that every well owner conforms to these.

Bulgarian Law for Well Owners

All well owners must by law register their well with the Director of the Regional Water Management Administration (WMA) – sometimes this can be done through the village mayor. Once this has been done, personal water usage from a well is free of charge. Changes to the law regarding wells were introduced on 11th August 2006. It states that all property owners with an existing well on their land register must register it within 6 months of the date of legislation and that owners with wells that are not in operation had a year in which to either close the well down or make it functional and register it, so in effect if you are buying an old property now then the well should have already been registered. However it is worth checking that this has in fact been done before you take possession of the property because failure to comply with this rule results in a fine and the well may be sealed against your consent. Your lawyer should be able to advise you on whether the seller has complied with this law. If you find that your well has not been registered then you need to take this up with the previous owner or go to your local municipality and fill in an “Application for the provision of water taking equipment. The form is only available in Bulgarian and must be filled in Bulgarian. You need to specify your name as the owner of the well and the address of the property with the well on its land as well as a contact telephone number. The form also asks you to declare the purpose of your well water usage for example whether it is for personal or business use. You also have to state the method of water extraction, the depth and diameter of the well and its distance from your neighbour’s property. You must also supply your notary deed and ID. Upon completion the application form should be sent to the Regional Water Management Administration.

Contaminated Well Water

If your well is registered then you will have an economical source of water, but you need to ensure that it is free of contamination and this can be done by ensuring that it is cased and sealed correctly. Well water contains some common elements, which are natural contaminants like iron, calcium and magnesium. However traces of more harmful contaminants such as arsenic and radon can sometimes be found. Nitrates and Coliform bacteria may also be present and can be extremely harmful to people like the elderly, children and those who are sick. To be sure that your well does not contain dangerous contaminants it is advisable to have the water tested. If the water tests come back showing signs of contamination all is not lost for your new, cheap source of water; you can use various methods of filtration to rid the water of these contaminants. One way to do this is by using reverse osmosis water processors; even boiling the water will release most harmful contaminants. Another form of treatment is known as shock chlorination, which is a process whereby chlorine is added to the well water. If there has been flooding in your areas then it is a good way to re-address the balance to avoid contamination from surface water. You cannot drink the well water whilst you are treating it with chlorine but you will be able to drink it once the chlorination has been left overnight.

Other Risks

Not all wells look like those from fairly tales with quaint little roofs and a cylindrical brick wall separating it from the ground. Many Bulgarian wells may lie hidden beneath garden debris and may be no more than a hole at ground level. Such wells are particularly dangerous to children and animals that tend to run carefree through the garden without a thought for what may lie beneath their path. There have been many cases worldwide of children falling into the depths of an abandoned well and to avoid this risk it is best to take a few simple safety measures. If you intend to use the well then have it built up above ground level so that it is visible. Even if you don’t intend on using the well this is a good idea and it can be made into a garden feature – providing you cap off the top you are complying with regulations. Those wells that are at ground level and are capped with an old sheet of metal should also be checked as they too may no longer be safe. Ensure that your well has been securely capped by a professional builder so that you are free from danger.