I failed to mention in my last column that the pitless adapter along with the submersible pump and the captive air tank have, in my opinion, been the three great advances in pump system technology in the last 60 years. Some may argue that the constant pressure system is a fourth great advance, but I have not had much experience with these and I try to limit these columns to things I have personal experience with.
I have mentioned that early pitlesses were basically one of two types: the O ring type or what I call the union type. You can refer to my October 2015 column for more details on this. When we first started using pitless adapters here in Michigan, it was the late 1950s and metal casing was still about the only thing being used. Pitless adapters in those days were purchased with a specific bury, which was most usually 3 foot, 4 foot or 5 foot. This footage dimension was how deep the service line was below the top of the ground and allowed for the top of the adapter to stick up at least 12 inches above grade. Now this was before we had a full state-wide well code, which today mandates a minimum of 12 inches from the ground line to the top of the adapter. I have seen adapters sometimes flush with the ground or nearly so, and others standing as high as 3 feet above grade. In new construction especially, getting an accurate reading of the final grade is sometimes difficult. I can remember a public supply well I drilled in the 1970s where I left the pitless a good foot and half above grade. For some reason, the residents added some filler and the last time I saw this installation, the top of the pitless was way less than a foot above grade. Extending a pitless adapter in some designs is not easy.
In the very early days of pitless installation, connection to the well casing was fairly simple with a fitting called a pitless connecter — this consisted of half of a threaded pipe coupling and half of a compression coupling. The compression coupling is like a sandwich with cast iron or steel for the bread and a rubber gland for the meat or cheese. Slip this over a section of plain end pipe, tighten four or six good-sized bolts, and the connection is made. Shortly after these became popular, the local health authorities said “no way.” This was not an acceptable connection to the well casing — it had to be thread to thread with a metal coupling in between. Now we had to make a pretty smooth and square cut to our casing, which could be done with a welding torch and the proper jig. I have one of these jigs and can cut a steel pipe almost as smoothly and accurately as I can with a pipe cutter.
Threading the casing, however, adds some difficulty to the process. Cutting threads requires lubricating the pipe being threaded with cutting oil, and that is not a good thing to get on the inside of the casing. Being down in a hole in the ground makes this more difficult. I have threaded 4-inch casing by hand, and it is a long and tiring process with a back-geared threader. Most everybody in the pump business has a power drive to turn the threader. These are electric motor-driven devices that are highly geared down to come up with the torque to turn the threader. This threading process is still somewhat of a pain.
I remember installing a pitless adapter on an existing well where we were having to make rather frequent service calls due to poor water quality. The well was originally completed as a buried type with a so-called sanitary well seal. The owner, who was an expert hydraulic car hoist technician, wanted to go to a pitless. He proceeded to dig a nice large hole around the casing, which was 4 inches, on a Saturday. Unfortunately, we had heavy rain on Sunday. When I got there on Monday the hole was a real mess, not helped by the fact that the ground was blue clay. I put some 2–by-8s on the bottom of the hole to walk on, got my threader connected, plugged in my Port-a-Pony and put some cutting oil on the pipe. When I turned on the Pony, the torque reaction skidded me like a skier across the hole. I managed to get the job done, and on the way back to my shop I stopped at a local supply house to get material that I needed for another job. Another contractor who is a good friend of mine was there and wondered if I had been in a mud wrestling contest, which I had not. He even offered to send me one of his helpers if I got into a mess like that again. Happily, I don’t think I ever did. In my last column, I was a little bit of “wind bag John,” as it was overly long, so I am going to quit at this point, a few words short of ideal. Next time, I will try to write about problems with pitlesses on smaller-diameter wells and some special types, including one that will have you scratching your head.
As this is written in mid-October, we have had some nice fall weather, rather dry and in fact the local farmers are way ahead of normal harvesting times for both corn and soybeans. We have had below freezing temperatures the last several nights and a few nights ago my wife and I were out hooking an electric cord to our travel trailer so the furnace would run and it would not freeze. We did this around midnight — not very smart. You will read this near the end of the year so I will wish all you readers a Merry Christmas and a prosperous and safe 2016.