Horse Burial - Is it safe close to private water wells?

Asked June 6, 2015, 10:44 AM EDT

We live in a small HOA and unfortunately one of our neighbors horses died recently. She buried it on her property at a depth of 5' and 150' away from the nearest private well. The water table varies between 11-13'. For some reason, other HOA members have become convinced this is going to lead to contamination of their wells. Most have underground septic systems and spray pesticides and place poison in gopher holes and I would think these pose a much greater risk to the water supply.

I would be grateful if anyone could help with the science behind this situation so I can allay fears within the HOA.

Many thanks,

Paul


Chaffee County Colorado

3 Responses

Paul,

The short answer to your question of whether it is safe to bury livestock 'close' to a private well is no. However, site specific conditions such as soil type, depth to groundwater and geology will dictate whether actual groundwater contamination could occur. In the situation you describe, the conditions are concerning if the flow of the groundwater and/or the slope of the land is toward the well. I would not recommend using the water supply unless it is tested for coliform bacteria. If the horse was chemically euthanized, that is a potential source of contamination as well.

While burying livestock is a fairly common method of disposal, in this situation it was not recommended and may have violated a disposal ordinance. Deceased livestock are considered solid waste in Colorado. The Livestock Burial Statute 25-1-612 requires that all animal carcasses must be buried:

  • at least 5 feet above a water table
  • at least 2 feet underground,
  • at least 150' up-gradient from water sources (wells, streams, etc),
  • not in a low lying area or at a site that has high leachability (sandy).

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) holds the statutory authority regarding disposal of individual animal carcasses, but your County/local health Department may have additional requirements. Contact your local or county health and zoning department for further information or solutions to this situation. Chaffee County Health (719-207-1498, website: http://www.chaffeecounty.org/Environmental-Health ). The 1041 regulations are available at http://www.chaffeecounty.org/Planning-and-Zoning-Land-Use-Code.

Hi Troy Sorry for the delay in getting back to you! I very much appreciate your comprehensive response to my question and for pointing me in the direction of the additional resources - all tremendously helpful. All the best, Paul