Well Water Wisdom

A Story Of How It’s Done

Here's The Story

The move from urban living to the country life is a dream sought by many people but the road to this idyllic rural lifestyle can have many ruts along the way. Take it from a newly transplanted urbanite who already feels like a veteran rut jumper!

One of the first lessons I learned after our septic field failed is that as a farmer, you’ve got to make it your job to know about and look after your systems; don’t assume your inspection will include all the necessary information. After this very expensive lesson I decided it was time to get a little smarter about some of the other unique systems that come with country living, and this lead me to a closer inspection of where my water was coming from.

I knew my well head was located somewhere down in a dense thicket of shrubs and trees in the middle of my 5-acre property and I also knew that my water was potable at the time I purchased it (because I had it tested) but that was about it. Armed with a diagram of what a well head should look like (included in a brochure entitled “BC’s Ground Water Protection Regulations” produced by the BC Ministry of Environment) I started hack-ing through the brambles and blackberries to find out what my well head looked like. After a pretty thorough search, and lots of scratches and scrapes, I found nothing remotely close to what was illustrated in the diagram. All I found was a skinny little half inch pipe sticking out of the ground with a small hook at the top presumably to keep rainwater from running in. Guessing I might find something a bit more substantial underneath this pipe I started digging and about a foot below the surface I hit a large wad of plastic wrapping. At this point I thought this was just too weird and decided it was time to call in the expert — from ABC Water Systems in Nanaimo.

Upon ABC’s arrival we proceeded to excavate around the pipe and discovered the well head wrapped in a large quantity of plastic. ABC explained that the form of well cap we found under all the plastic comes equipped with a compression seal that, while suitable for some applications (e.g. above ground and enclosed in a structure), was certainly not the right product for our circumstance as it could allow for the entrance of contaminated surface water. Additionally, that skinny little pipe with the hook on it was in fact an air vent but it was not equipped with screens to keep out vermin resulting in another potential source of bacterial contamination. Suddenly a story my neighbour told me about the previous owner’s water going muddy after the land beside the well was cleared and plowed came flooding hack to me — and started to make sense — perhaps the plastic wrapping was a mickey-duck attempt to resolve the problem of an already leaky well cap. As pointed out, this was not something to mickey-duck because the protection of the ground water was at stake. Failure to set things right could lead to my family (and potentially my neighbors) getting sick, costly repairs to decontaminate the water supply, not to mention possible fines and lawsuits for damaging the ground water system.

To resolve the issue an extension was added to the existing casing bringing it to a height of 2 feet above ground level. (Must be a minimum 12″) A new, secure well cap was added to prevent anything undesirable entering the well including ground or flood water and vermin such as bugs or rodents. The project also included the installation of a pitless adapter, a mechanical device used to provide a frost-free, sanitary well connection of the water line to the well casing while also providing convenient access to the submersible pump for maintenance and repair. The final step of the project was to pour bentonite into the space between the excavated well casing and the surrounding soil. The bentonite absorbs water and swells in the ground forming a tight seal that prevents surface water from seeping down the outside of the casing into the well. After the work was completed we tested the water and are happy to report that the tests came back clean. ABC was quick to point out that even though some good work had been done to improve the well, my job of protecting the water supply was not done and ongoing testing, inspections and maintenance would be required. I’ve listed ABC’s suggestions for keeping your ground water safe here.

With a relatively minimal investment, the assistance of a solid professional, and some ongoing vigilance I can rest assured that I am protecting my groundwater for the benefit of my family and my neighbors. I only hope that my neighbours (and yours) join together in the stewardship of this shared and vital resource.

Reference: Island Farm & Garden

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