Wells, All ‘Cooped’ Up
Two columns back, I wrote about driving over the top of a very thinly covered well pit and the rear wheels of my rig going through with the frame of the truck hitting the ground. As I further remember, it was an old dug well, not a well pit. Whatever it was, it was a lot of work to get the rig back on all six wheels as I mentioned.
I was talking with a driller friend recently and he had read that column and said he had a better story yet. He and his father were maneuvering a trailer-mounted rig when one wheel went through a weak cover and into the top of a septic tank. He said, like in my case, they had some hard work to get the trailer back onto its wheel but never had to get into the septic tank or its contents. My comment would be, “that was a good thing.
My friend also said that they worked for a building contractor who made his own septic tanks using the wall of the house as one of the four walls. I don’t know what kind of health regulations they had at that time, but that was a poor idea. I have heard of saving money, but this one is a little bit over the top. I guess I have heard it all now — at least for today.
In recent columns I have written about well pits, basement offsets and residential well houses. I had forgotten though to write about what is the second cousin or miniature version of the well house, which I call a well coop. To utilize one of these, the well casing was brought above the surface, usually a concrete pad was poured around it and somebody — either the pump installer, the building contractor or the homeowner — built what looked like a small dog house over the casing. In earlier days, this house or coop contained a jet or other type of pump and sometimes a small pressure tank. Where a flowing or nearly flowing well was encountered, this was a reasonable way to go.
Some of these coops were insulated and some were not. Some had a source of heat, sometimes controlled by a thermostat and sometimes not. Actually a pretty good way to keep the pipes from freezing was to wrap them with electrical heating tape and then cover them with insulation. This last method made service more difficult, as the service man had to tear off the insulation and heating tape. But it was an effective method. Some of these so-called coops were well made and others were pretty rickety, especially if they were not well maintained. At one of our state conventions — I think, in 1975, or 40 years ago — a fellow had on display and for sale a whole series of these coops, or houses as they should properly be called.
A step forward from these built-on-site models were some factory-made versions that looked somewhat like an igloo. I think these were made of a non-metallic material that was not wood and some, I believe, had a heavy layer of insulation on the inside. In my memory, these were not around very long — for whatever reason I am not sure. The idea sounded pretty good. A step forward from this so-called igloo is the imitation rock sometimes called a fake rock. As far as I know, these are manufactured today. I believe the primary purpose of these is to hide a pitless adapter. Now, pitless adapters, which I will write about in future columns, look pretty much like a fire hydrant and are not unsightly in my opinion. But then, I am a well driller and pump installer.
For some reason or reasons, many customers object to the pitless adapter looming out of their yard. My late father used to say these people were ashamed to have a well and wanted to hide it at all costs. They sure weren’t ashamed to have a well when the pump failed and they were out of water. At that point, they would agree to anything to get the water flowing again. A favorite tactic was to plant a tree right near the well casing or surround it with a flower bed. If the pump and well were good ones, service might not be required for quite a few years when the tree had grown large enough to impede access to the well. Sawing the tree down or trimming its limbs was then necessary, to the consternation of the home owner. The flower bed, if it existed, would be trampled out of business.
I remember a customer having a virtual fit about the need to trim a nice tree he planted too close to the well. This bird was trying my patience and I said to him in an unprofessional manner, “We can trim the tree or you stay without water and you’ve got 30 seconds to decide.” Well, he let us trim the tree. I remember in the early 1960s one company had a sundial available to make the well cap on the pitless more attractive. The idea seemed like a good one, but they were only available for about a season so I guess people preferred the flowers and trees.
I don’t believe the imitation rocks are available with insulation, but if they have the heat-taped, wrapped and insulated pipes they would be pretty good and durable, as I think they are made of Fiberglas. In warm weather it could get pretty hot in one of these and I got a major service call due to that fact some years ago. A woman who I had known from attending the same church and who lived a long ways from my shop called to ask if I would look at her sprinkling pump. She was far enough away that she insisted that I charge her mileage, which I was willing to do. Upon getting to her place, I found she had a very, very nice home and the lawn was being watered from a lake across the road from her house using a well-known make of centrifugal pump. However, the pump was not working.
My friend said the sprinkler man wanted to sell her a new pump and she was not sure if he was telling the truth or not. She said she knew I would give her the straight scoop and, as we were coming to the end of the sprinkling season, why didn’t I take the pump back to my shop, check it out and put it back in service the next spring? On doing this, I found that the pump itself was in good shape but the motor had failed. I got a new motor for the pump and put it all back together, tested at my shop and took it back to the jobsite the next spring. Sometime over the winter, it occurred to me that the pump was covered by an imitation rock with no venting. It also occurred to me that there was no way for the heat from the motor to escape, so it could get incredibly hot in there in the summer.
I obtained a couple of round screened vents and installed one on the low side of the rock and one on the opposite high side figuring this would give some natural flow plus a vent for the heated air. If I was doing it again, I think I would use four vents or perhaps even six, but the two must have worked as I have not heard from my friend about this.
We have had a reasonably good late spring here in Michigan but recently, as we approach the first days of summer, the weather has been downright unpleasant. We have had rain after rain after rain, and a couple days ago it was so humid it was almost impossible to work. You fellows from down South are probably laughing at me about this humidity but we northern fellows are not used to it. I understand my readers in Texas may be getting flooded once again and out West it is still very, very dry. In my opinion, a greater power than any of us still controls the weather. ‘Til next time, drink plenty of water and try to keep as cool as possible.