What are injection wells?
Underground Injection Control (UIC) wells — or injection wells — are structures built to allow fluids to flow into the ground (usually) under the force of gravity. The most common in Washington are known as drywells.
An injection well is designed and built:
- Deeper than the largest surface dimension.
- To contain an assemblage of perforated pipe.
- As an improved sinkhole.
- As a chamber or vault designed to capture and infiltrate stormwater.
Examples include: sump pump, drywell, drainfield, an infiltration trench containing perforated pipe, a stormwater chamber, and temporary injection points.
The many uses of injection wells
Injection wells are used to manage stormwater, remediate groundwater contamination, replenish aquifers, and as return-flow wells for heat pumps. See our other uses section below for more details.
We protect groundwater by regulating injection wells
We minimize the potential for groundwater contamination from UIC wells by regulating:
- The well construction and location.
- The volume and quality of the fluids injected.
- The hydrogeologic setting of the well.
It is illegal to dispose of industrial or municipal waste into an injection well — unless it is done under a state discharge permit.
What type of wells are allowed in Washington?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) groups UIC wells into six classes, depending on the type of fluid received by the well. Class 1, Class 3, and the majority of Class 4 wells are prohibited in Washington. Class 2 wells and one type of Class 4 well are allowed. For descriptions and more information see Chapter 173-218 WAC.
Class 5 is the most common
These are generally shallow wells used to discharge fluids into or above a groundwater aquifer. In many cases, these aquifers are shallow, unconfined, or surficial.
There are different types of Class 5 wells; see document for definitions.
Stormwater management using injection wells
In Washington, the majority of injection wells — mainly dry wells — are used to manage stormwater from roads, parking areas, and roofs.
Read EPA's clarification on which stormwater infiltration practices/technologies we may regulate as a Class 5 UIC well.
Stormwater management guidance
The best management practices (BMPs) for stormwater facilities regulated under the Underground Injection Control program describes the best management practices (BMPs) to reduce solids, metals, and oil from injection wells used along roads and parking areas, or used to collect roof runoff at non-industrial settings. The UIC BMPs are now housed in our stormwater management manuals.
The UIC BMPs in our 2019 stormwater manuals supersede the 2006 Guidance for UIC wells that manage stormwater.
Infiltration trenches with perforated pipe
Infiltration trenches with perforated pipe must be registered, except for trenches that receive only roof runoff from single family homes or duplexes, or used to control basement flooding.
Infiltration trenches with perforated pipe are designed, constructed, operated, and maintained according to the current stormwater management manual guidance, or an equivalent approved manual in the 2019 SWMMWW BMP T7.20 and in 2019 SWMMEW F. 6.22.
Best Management Practices (BMPs) for injection wells
If there is stormwater draining to a UIC well, we must authorize this use and approve the treatment Best Management Practices (BMPs).
UIC Program required operation, maintenance and pollution prevention BMPs are found in our stormwater manual’s Source Control BMP or Flow Control chapter. Be sure to check the proper manual for your region.
Other types of injection well uses