Where the Hell is our Well?

The Way-Back machine is dialed to the first of March 1970. The water pressure in the house dropped, then stopped. Why? The first thing I thought of was that a circuit breaker had tripped. I checked this and no luck. Our big question was “Where the Hell is the well?” Nobody told us at closing, and since the well was submerged, nothing noticeable above ground.

Do you get your household water from a well? No. City folk! Well, we got our water from a drilled well, and flushed our sewage into a septic tank. This post is about our well. Septic tank later. First, I will share a few words, for those who do not own a water company, here are some of the details about a home owned drilled well.

In areas where fresh water is not available from a municipal supply, water can often be obtained from the earth. The concept is simple: dig or drill into the earth until you reach a supply of clean water. In some areas water is available fairly close to the surface, while in others it is hundreds of feet down.

Water Quality and Quantity

A well-water system should give clean water in sufficient quantities for the needs of the home and the people living there. Both the quality and quantity of well water can and should be tested.

Water quality: Water from a well should be tested on a regular basis. You can hire someone to test it or test it yourself. You can easily take a sample and send it out for testing. Don’t waste money on having this done.

Water quantity: Don’t let your well run dry. A quantity test is not common, but it can and should be done by an expert. The test, called a draw-down test, involves drawing water from the well at a standard flow rate to see how fast the water gets used up and how fast the well refills.

With a shallow well, the pump is  in or near the home and is readily accessible. With deep wells, the pump is at the bottom of the well, and you will neither see nor hear the pump.  Which is better: a jet pump mounted in the home, or a submersible pump at the bottom of the well? We had a submersible.

Submersible pump: This pump can draw water up from hundreds of feet in the earth. For a deep well, the submersible pump is your only option, but it is also expensive and difficult to keep up and repair. Oh yes!! At the time our well failed I had no idea of what to do.  Below is a simplified diagram of a drilled well system. The devil is often in the lack of details.  I  studied engineering, graduated an engineer, and have a license as an engineer.   Once an engineer, always an engineer. So  I give you details.   The diagram below and some of the  information above is from living with my home.

Drilled well details

Drilled well details

Our well was very similar with this exception. The well, wellhead, and seal are all below the ground.  You have to accept this exception to understand our problem. Now that you have proceeded this far, I enclose a more detailed diagram so we can fully understand how complex a well is. The diagram coming up is from the Stothoff company. PLEASE click this link, you will learn  much.

 Item # 5 is vital to grasping our problem.  This is a Torque Arrestor also known as a torque stop installed directly above the submersible pump to protect pump and well components from starting torque damage. This torque results from the current surge that occurs when the pump  starts.  Happens with any electric motor.

One of the engineers in an other department at PP&L was an expert in underground utility construction.  He told me that he had a locating device he used which sent a signal on the underground wires which he could trace with earphones.  When he lost the signal, that was where the break in the connection was.  I will spare you the details on this, just trust me, it worked. That was progress, I relished it and thanked the guy for coming over on his day off to help us. His instrument indicated the broken wire was about 25′ from the house at about a 45 degree angle from the rear of the house. A big step forward, surely.  Now we had to dig up the topsoil and find the well.

 You might enjoy the following:  We hired the local gravedigger to come over and dig at the place we had marked.  Shortly after, he did come with his pickup and a trailer at the rear with his backhoe on it.  He carefully dug and after he got down about 5 feet, there was the well.  Wonderful! Great progress: now we had to find a well installer to diagnose the problem and repair it. We located such a person who informed us the trouble was that the torque arrestor was improperly installed resulting in the electric line to the pump being torn loose.  He was able to fix it in a few days.  More good news for sure.

Meanwhile, we had no household water at all.  Our neighbor was kind enough to let us fill up a 5 gallon can from his outside spigot. I really appreciated this, as it was another step closer to ending this mess.  How does one turn the water on when the weather is freezing? The answer is by using a frost faucet. I had lived in the Northeast all my life and never had to turn the water outside. So, I had a frost faucet but didn’t know it.  There is a frost faucet in our neighbor’s house connecting the exterior spigot to the water line. It looks like the image below.

Frost free faucet

Frost free faucet

I  tried to resist temptation showing a schematic of this. I failed. You may even find this information useful some time.  The faucet’s purpose is to prevent the water staying in the faucet and freezing. We had one, everyone who owned a well had one, and they worked. I don’t think stores had coin operated water stations as they do now.  Even if they did, it would have been a pain to carry a back seat filled with empty gallon jugs, fill them,  and home again.

This water arrangement worked OK for cooking, washing dishes, and  occasional hand and face washing.  Showers were impossible and the bathroom rule was “if its yellow, let it mellow, if its brown, flush it down.” Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as the old saying goes.  Our family was un-Godly “rank” at that time. However, we were all cheered because we were on the right track to fixing the problem.

A family friend in the village of Coopersburg  kindly invited our family to come over for a  Shower and Supper. We accepted this invitation gladly, and let the girls shower first while we chatted with our hosts. Then Marge and I enjoyed a steamy, satisfying, shower together. The couple that showers together really gets to know each other. This showering conserved hot water, gas to heat it, and time.  We enjoyed a pleasant, pleasurable, pleasing evening with good hosts, good food, and finally, good clean bodies.

All in all it was a week, maybe ten days from the time we lost our  water to when the repair was complete. The gravedigger came back, filled and tamped the hole he recently dug, and finished the job. What a relief for me and our family!  We had no more trouble with the well as long as we owned the house.

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About R. F.

I am a Professional Engineer who spent my working life in the electric utility industry. images vary from time to time
This entry was posted in Coopersburg PA, Pennsylvania and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Where the Hell is our Well?

  1. Allan T. says:

    Hi, well, I do know a little bit about wells & septic tanks; as my grandfather bought a cottage in upstate NY…..Monroe. We had a well that provided us drinking water, and a septic tank to take away “stuff”. Also we had cousins living in Pine Rock Park, Conn. Yes, it was as country as it sounds.
    Allan/Janice

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