A few days ago my wife, Shirley, and I attended the 2016 Michigan Ground Water Association Convention in Battle Creek, Mich. This was the 64th convention of this association that I have attended and the 59th consecutive. I managed to miss the 1957 event. The 2016 convention was very much like the most recent ones, with rather low attendance, a modest number of display booths open for viewing for only four hours, and poorly attended seminars. It seems to me that many of the younger members of our industry are not very interested in learning new things or any updates to what they do know. Young drillers could do well to support events like this.

Among the exhibits, which included two drill rigs, I did see several new and innovative products. One was a heating system to prevent pipes from freezing that is inside the pipe — a unique approach to an old problem. Another was a combination of visual and audio alarms telling the owner that his water softener brine tank needed salt added with either a beeper or a red signal light, or both — another unique idea. One manufacturer had a combination pressure switch and control box that they said would eliminate a separate control box for three-wire submersible pumps. All the installer has to do with this device is bring in the power and connect the feed wires to the pump — again a unique idea.

The same manufacturer had a new pitless adapter, this one designed for 3-inch wells. This adapter is of a “make or break”-type union below the frost line. The connection is secured or released by turning a hex nut inside the cap. This manufacturer has been making this style adapter for years and I think I first used one myself in 1961. It is an excellent design and a real quality product. The new 3-inch pitless made by this manufacturer is a miniature version of the 4-inch and larger units they have made for all these years. I am unaware of anyone drilling 3-inch wells anywhere in Michigan in 2016, but there must be a market or this well established company would not be making a 3-inch unit for sale — this is another unique product. I thought it kind of ironic, as I have been writing about pitlesses for the last several columns.

At this recent convention, I did see a few friends who I now see once a year and that number, sadly, seems to be getting smaller. It was a good two-day event that Shirley and I were pleased to have attended but, frankly, not as exciting as the conventions we had in what us old-timers say was the “golden age” of well driller conventions.

I’m now going to write about a very unique pitless adapter, the PAT or pitless adapter tank.

I first heard of this type “adapter” in the late 1950s, even before I entered our industry full time, as my dad had installed one on a new well and thought it was the greatest thing ever. If you took a regular pitless adapter of the spool type and cut holes in the top and bottom of a regular steel pressure tank, the holes being the size of the pitless adapter, slipped the tank onto the pitless and welded the seams shut, you would have a pitless adapter tank. The manufacturer added a so-called air tube which was a 1.5-inch pipe threaded at the top and welded to the top of the tank a few inches from the pitless body. Most of the tanks used were of the squat type, so that the majority of the pitless stood above the top of the tank.

You have to remember that in this era we were using just about all steel casing and the clamp-on pitless was not around yet. In almost all installations after the well was finished we had to dig down, cut the casing at the proper depth below the frost line, cut a thread on it and screw on a pitless adapter. You could also do the same thing with this PAT, or pitless tank as they were commonly known. Whoopee! You had installed the pitless and the tank and all you had to do was run a line into the building and that building had water under pressure. I believe these pitless tanks were the most hated or loved item that we pump people used, at least that I have ever heard of. There was no middle ground. You were either like my dad, who thought they were great, or a dear friend who says they were among the worst things ever invented.

These pitless tanks had different capacities than regular above-ground tanks used in our area. Those were usually 42, 80, 120, 220 and 315 gallons. As I recall, the tanks on the PAT were 40, 60 (a very popular size), 95, 145 and, I think, 260 gallons. We sold mostly 95s but a lot of 60s and a few 145s. This was the era when the big tank was the thing, as such things as variable speed drives and the like were unheard of. If you had a high-capacity pump, you needed a big-capacity tank. Next time, I will write about the advantages of these pitless tanks — and, yes, there were some — and also the disadvantages, and there were a lot of those.

I write this in the middle of March and we have had some nice days in the high 50-degree-Fahrenheit range. All of our snow is gone and the grass is getting a green tinge to it. Today the wind is blowing like the so-called Blue Suzie or, as they say, the March winds do blow. Hope all you readers are busy and working safely and I would guess you folks in the South are experiencing warm temps already.

For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/schmitt.