TYPES OF WATER WELLS
Drilled Wells: Residential drilled wells in our service area are typically 6 inches in diameter and constructed of steel casing. Overburden (sand and gravel) wells have casing extending the entire depth of the well to keep the borehole open and to seal off any surface water. They are completed with a stainless steel well screen/filter at the bottom so that water can enter the well while keeping sand out. Rock wells are cased to the top of the rock, but do not usually require casing in the rock itself. Some rock wells do require a liner of smaller diameter casing to keep the borehole from collapsing or filling up with broken rock. Some older drilled wells may have the well head located below ground in a well pit.
Bored/Dug Wells: These are large diameter wells, typically 3 feet in diameter and lined with concrete tiles, galvanized steel culverts, or fibreglass. These wells are very rarely installed in our service area because of the high potential for either contamination or for running out of water. Apparently, installation of this well type is prohibited in certain jurisdictions because of the potential problems with regard to contamination.
Sand Points: These are small diameter (typically 2" or less) screens and riser pipes that are driven into the ground to provide water. These only work in specific areas that have the right combination of very sandy soils and high water tables. We do not install sand points because they are seldom reliable and are very susceptible to water contamination because of their shallow depths.
Benefits of a Drilled Well
Drilled wells are less likely to become contaminated or affected by seasonal water level fluctuations than shallow bored wells or sand points. Most drilled wells, if constructed and located properly, provide clean water. The quality of most deep well water with respect to harmful parameters such as E.Coli. and other harmful bacteria and viruses is excellent because it is filtered through the soil and stored deep in the earth.
A private drilled well supply is a good long term asset and adds value to your property. A clean, safe supply of water is extremely important to you and future purchasers, but people seldom give thought to their water supply until it is not available. For this reason, make sure that you give a lot of consideration to your well and the pump system quality when installing a new system. Most purchasers of homes are getting educated and are having the well yield and water quality tested as part of any real estate agreement. We have drilled several new wells for real estate transaction closings where the purchase agreement required it because either the old well's water quality or quantity proved to be unsatisfactory when it was tested.
Method of Well Drilling
There are two main types of well drilling performed in our service area. They are cable tool drilling and mud rotary drilling. Cable tool drilling is also known as churn and percussion or "pounder" drilling. About 75% of the firms in the Barrie area employ one or more cable tool drilling machines because of certain technical and economic advantages. Make sure that you ask prospective contractors what method they will use and why.
Country Water Systems uses the cable tool method of well drilling because it allows for more accurate aquifer samples and it is easy to screen a well in several places if it is required to try different aquifers. These features often allow wells to be completed at shallower depths than other methods and wells drilled by the cable tool method can therefore end up being less expensive.
In cable tool drilling, the hole is formed by the cutting action of a heavy drill bit that is repeatedly raised and dropped. Casing is added as the well gets deeper, thereby supporting the borehole walls and allowing for discrete sampling of sand and other water-bearing formations. Based on physical samples from such a formation, we select a well screen that will allow water into the well while keeping out the sand. Our screens are commercially manufactured from stainless steel and are sized according to the customer's well yield requirements. Well development follows the installation of the well screen to maximize the well yield and to ensure that the water pumped into the home remains sand-free. Country Water Systems spends a significant amount of time on this process and guarantees our wells to be sand-free.
Country Water Systems welds the casing joints. Make sure that the well contractor will use welded casing versus threaded casing. Welded casing provides a continuous seal against water leakage to the inside of the well. Casing thread joints have been known to leak and these leaks could introduce contamination to the well. Another very important point to note is that welded casing allows any type of drilling rig to make repairs requiring changes in the depth of the well casing, whereas threaded inserted joint casing have weak joints and will not allow the well to be repaired by the cable tool drilling machine which is employed by approximately 75% of the firms in the Barrie service area.
Only clean water will be added to your well during our cable tool drilling process. Therefore, no drilling additives, foams, leaking compressor oils or other unwanted materials will have a chance to impair the quality of your drinking water. Also, with cable tool drilling, there is less chance of the well yield being reduced when drilling muds and other fine particles are forced into the water-bearing formation as they can be in alternative drilling processes.
Country Water Systems specializes in using cable tool drilling to construct and complete drilled wells in overburden (sand and gravel) aquifers, where our well screen selection and well development techniques allow us to complete higher yielding wells. Our careful documentation of geologic conditions, proper collection of sand and gravel samples, and choice of screen are the key to success for these types of wells. You will not have sand in your water, we guarantee it.
Cost of Well Drilling
Good well drillers agree that well drilling is an art, especially when it comes to producing water from sand and gravel aquifers. Newer technology does exist that allows us to drill deeper and faster, but these tools do nothing to improve the process of actually finding the water. It is still up to the education, skill, and judgement of the driller to maximize the yield of the well in a given area. As in any art, skill levels vary considerably with education, experience, and willingness to try and learn new things.
The cost of your well usually reflects the skill and craftmanship of your driller, who determines the quality of the finished well. As with any other marketable skill, the better drillers command better prices i.e. you get what you pay for.
Sometimes, the reason for higher prices is apparent in that the contactor simply is better at what he does. Sometimes they may also know more about the area than their competitors and are accounting up front for situations that they know are going to occur, whereas the competitors may surprise you after the fact with a bigger bill than you were expecting. By the same token, if a contractor's estimate is significantly lower, that driller is probably cutting corners to give you that price. Since everyone's material costs are roughly the same, some cheaper contractors maintain their profitability by not installing the legally required 20 foot surface grout seal or by reducing the well development or cleaning time, which often leads to sand being pumped from the well and into your home, ruining fixtures and your enjoyment of your home. These cheaper contractors seldom return to fix any problems because their profit margins are so small that they have to rush to get to the next job to keep their business going. It is next to impossible to find anyone willing to work on someone else's well, so those few hundred dollars that you saved today by going with the lowest bidder, may cost you thousands when you have to get another contractor to come in and decommission that well and drill a new one from scratch. Do yourself a favour and make sure you get the right contractor the first time!
WELL WATER QUALITY AND QUANTITY
The yield of a well depends both on the driller's skill and on the nature of the aquifer itself. In many places, aquifers are so variable that neighbouring wells can be very different in terms of depth and well yield. For that reason, no one can guarantee how much water your well will provide or the quality of that water, so be wary of individuals making any such promises.
If there is water on the property, Country Water Systems will find it. Our skill level is such that we will maximize the yield from whatever aquifer is present. Through experience and using the water well records on file with the Ministry of the Environment, Country Water Systems has a good knowledge of the groundwater conditions in our service area and can often give you an estimate of the well yield that you can expect.
The quality of well water depends on the type of well and the area. The water quality can be classified in two ways: harmful and non-harmful. Harmful parameters include bacteria such as coliforms and E.coli and chemicals such as pesticides and nitrates. Non-harmful (aesthetic) parameters include iron, sulphur, hardness, and nuisance bacteria such as iron-related bacteria.
Many new wells will require a water treatment system to treat for hardness, iron, sulfur, etc. Many water treatment manufacturers recommend that new wells be used for at least 4 to 6 weeks before water quality testing for treatment systems because it takes time for the water quality concentrations to stabilize.
Your well should be tested for total coliform bacteria and E.coli prior to being used. Various agencies recommend that homeowners should have the quality of their well water tested at least semi-annually. In Ontario, County Health Units provide bacteriological testing free of charge.
SHOCK CHLORINATION FOR WATER WELLS
Shock chlorination is used to disinfect the well, pump, and piping to get rid of coliform and E.coli bacteria and to reduce or control iron-related and sulphur reducing bacteria. Wells should be chlorinated after drilling, after pump installations, and on an annual basis afterwards. Our recommended shock chlorination procedure is outlined below. While this method is perfectly safe for any well drilled by Country Water Systems, inferior wells may react unfavourably and you follow this procedure at your own risk. Also, although chlorinating is safe for the well components, chlorine is corrosive to you and can even be deadly. Once again, you follow this procedure at your own risk.
Ensure adequate ventilation at all times during the following procedure!
1. Put water treatment units such as softeners, etc. on "bypass" (but not UV/ultraviolet units) as chlorine may damage them. Disinfect water treatment equipment by using the manufacturers' suggested procedure.
2. Determine the amount of Javex (unscented) that you will need for the well by checking the following table. Consult your well record or well contractor for the depth of the water in the well. It is calculated as the total depth minus the static water level. Add another litre of Javex to account for the volume of the hot water tank and pressure tank.
3. If possible, circulate water through the system by running water into the well from a hose connected to an outdoor tap. Make sure you do not get water or chlorine into any electrical connections.
4. While the water is running, add chlorine to the well slowly by trickling it in or by adding small amounts at intervals. If you have a well seal, you may add the chlorine through the air vent using a funnel. If you have trouble at this step, consult a well contractor.
5. Circulate the water in the well for 15 to 20 minutes after you first notice a chlorine smell coming from the water in the garden hose and then shut off the garden hose. This will help to get a uniform concentration of chlorine in the well and pressure system.
6. Run every hot and cold fixture in the house (including washing machine) one at a time until you smell chlorine, then shut it off. Afterwards, flush each toilet a couple of times.
7. The chlorine has to be in the water for 8 to 12 hours for optimal results; however, we recommend that you do not exceed this time. As you should not use the water during this period, it's suggested that you do this as an overnight treatment. It is acceptable to flush a toilet a couple of times if necessary.
8. After twelve hours, flush the chlorine from the well by running the hose outside until the water is clear and odourless. This may take several hours. Do not run water inside as the large amount of chlorine may affect the septic system. WARNING! Because the chlorine will often cause scale and rust to break loose in an old well, minimize the risk of plugging your plumbing by connecting a garden hose to the faucet at or closest to the pressure tank. Make sure that taps etc. in the house are not turned on and do not draw water during this flushing period. If possible, shut the water off to the rest of the house.
9. Once the water is running clear, flush the inside of the well again to get rid of any chlorine and iron residue that may be on the inside of the well casing. When the water from the hose gets dirty, discharge it away from the well. Repeat this step until the water no longer gets dirty when you run the hose into the well.
10. Flush the rest of the fixtures in the house. Don't do white laundry for two or three loads until you've run quite a lot of clean water through the pipes and the machine!
LOCATING A NEW WELL
When Country Water Systems arrives to help choose the well location, there are a few essential issues we look at:
1. Location of the septic system and other contaminant sources. Ontario provincial legislation dictates that a drilled well must be at least 50 feet from any potential source of contamination, including the septic tank and tile bed.
2. Equipment or machinery access. Country Water Systems recommends placement near the driveway and at least 10 feet from a structure or tree so that the well remains accessible for pump repairs and the possibility of future well upgrading. Many times, an older well that could have been fixed or rehabilitated cannot be because the equipment can not get close enough.
3. Plumbing accessibility and proximity. If possible, try to have the well and the utility room on the same side of the house to minimize trenching and underground pipes.
4. Seasonal access issues like mud and snow. Consider how you plan to develop, grade, and landscape the property when picking a site. The homeowner is responsible both for site access and landscaping upon completion.
5. Environmental issues. When drilling near a water body, the setback distance will be determined by a need to keep the well out of the flood zone and to prevent drill cuttings from contaminating the habitat.