On Some Drilling Jobs, the Customer Really is Right
In my last column, I wrote about some customers who thought they knew more about well repair than we, as professionals, did. The solution to a long and unsuccessful fishing job was to drill a new well. Thinking back on this job, I wonder if we had not knocked the submersible pump we were fishing for to the bottom of the well and then reamed out the casing, if we couldn’t have gotten the pump out. We would probably have had to flush the reamings out hydraulically. Even if we had done this and had gotten the old pump out, the customer (a public facility) would have ended up with a fixed up old well and that usually is not a good value.
About the same time as that difficult fishing job, we were contacted by the head of a family on the outskirts of the major city where I live, Ann Arbor, Mich. This gentleman was a medical doctor and his wife taught music, I believe, from their home. They had four children, a son and three daughters, all of whom were teenagers or close to it. With six people in the family including the teenagers, they needed a good water supply, which they did not have. Upon checking out the jobsite, we found they were getting water from an old 4-inch well equipped with a jet pump that was installed in a basement offset, a popular method of completion before pitless adaptors became viable.
Looking their installation over and consulting with the owners, we concluded the smart thing to do was to drill a new well. Now I don’t necessarily believe that a new well is always the best option, but in many cases it is, and this was one of them. We all agreed this was the plan and they indicated that, in addition to a new well and pump, they needed a water softener. This was a good decision on their part, as the water in our area is almost certainly going to be hard and contain some iron. Their teenage daughters would appreciate some good soft water to shower with.
The basement offset was at the rear of their house and that area was virtually unreachable, as they had added to the original house and there was no room to get back there. We set up in the front yard, far enough off the driveway to be safe and yet close enough for convenient service. This was in the dead of winter and, as I remember, it was a tough one. We started drilling and within the first 20 feet encountered some boulders. Oh, great! Now we have to get the dynamite. I haven’t blasted a well in years, but I wonder if dynamite or other blasting material is available to drillers in 2017 — and what licenses and permits one needs to obtain this material. Certainly, safety precautions and Homeland Security would enter into this picture. If any of you readers are currently using dynamite regularly, I would appreciate hearing what hoops you have to jump through to legally do this. You can contact my editor and he will contact me.
In any event, back at this job, we successfully blasted through the boulders and completed a good producing well in sand and gravel of about average depth for our area, that being about 100 feet. We installed a pitless adapter and a submersible pump, and ran the water service line into the house using black poly pipe. We agreed with the homeowners to install the pressure tank (and later the water softener) in the old basement offset from which we had removed the old pump, tank and pipe. We ran copper tubing from the front of the house to the pressure tank location. We got everything fired up and it seemed to be a really good installation. The entire family was happy with the new higher-capacity water system and better water quality from our installation.
About a week later, the doctor called and said, while they were very well pleased with the installation and our “seemless” workmanship, they did have a problem. (The “seemless” comment seemed to come from their experience with a building contractor some years before who started a renovation and then took forever to complete it.) The doctor was impressed with our professionalism, and said so. Wanting to give this family good service, we went out to the jobsite and were invited into the parents’ bedroom under which we had brought the service line from the well. They had one of the children run some water until the pump started, and when it did, it sounded like a small bomb going off in the basement. If one were sleeping soundly, this would be an unpleasant way to wake up. We told the owners they had a legitimate objection and we would take care of it.
Of course, we had missed the fact that we had extra friction loss in the piping system going from the inside of the house to the tank location. We had had to go around a number of 90-degree corners and this just made the problem worse. We cut out all of the 90-degree elbows, replaced them with Tees and installed shock absorbers, including some small captive air tanks to handle the water surge that was causing the noise. After doing all this — and it was not fun to undo those wet joints — when the pump started, all that could be heard was a very modest thump. The owners now were 100 percent pleased with our work and happily paid their bill. Another case of an oversight on our part that we had to remedy, but a problem was solved.
As I write this column in mid-May, lawn mowing season in Michigan is in full swing. Our farmer friends are well behind in planting due to a lot of recent rain. Lately, we have had some really strange weather with strong, dry winds and temps near 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Last night, though, it was barely over 40 degrees Fahrenheit. As we say in Michigan: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes and it will change, perhaps for the better or maybe not. Until next time, keep working, work safe and take a little time now and then to enjoy life.
For more John Schmitt columns, visit www.nationaldriller.com/schmitt.