Newbie with a strange well situation—options, please?

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog' started by frankrue, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. frankrue

    frankrue New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Erieville, NY
    I have been reading a great deal about filtration systems, well water maintenance, shocking, the different possible contaminants in well water, and so on. I feel incredibly smart but, unfortunately, I realize that I have no idea what I'm talking about, let alone what I should be doing.

    That said, I don't want to be taken in by some nefarious Water Quality Pro, either. So I want to get as much information and as many options as is possible without having a pro look at my system.

    Here's what I know...

    I purchased a home that was built in 1850. Somewhere in that time period, a man dug out a well about 5' in diameter and at least 25' deep. This well was about 10 feet from the back door of the kitchen, and is made from sweat, field stone, and more sweat. It is still in existence today, though I have not been to its bottom (I used a stiff tape measure and got my measurement put pushing it into the well until it hit fairly solid material).

    There is still water sitting in the bottom of it, but I'm not sure how much (or how deep), as my tape stopped at material only a few inches from the visible surface of the water.

    This well is now covered by the floor of the laundry room (subsequently built and attached to the home sometime in 1960-1970), with a 24" (approximately) square trapdoor over the well itself. At that time, the owner must have put in a jet pump system. To save time and money, he simply drove the casing for the jet pump pipes into the existing well (at least another 100' or more feet beyond the 25' well itself). I *only know this* because the next owner (to whom I've actually spoken) admits to pulling out the jet pipes, losing one of the sections back into the well, and subsequently installing a submersible in the 1990s. He recalls putting about 150' of pipe into the well, which left the cap at about 5' below the trap door.

    All of that said, this is not a "we-hired-a-pro-well-driller" type well. In addition, the access to the well is in a room with a ceiling, so I can't even see how a drilling rig of any kind could get in there (again: my assumptions—maybe y'all know of other drilling rigs).

    The house was a dilapidated rental from at least 2000 until 2009. At that time, another owner bought the home, gutted much of it and remodeled it. It's beautiful looking again, and we purchased it this year. I tell you this because the house's well and septic essentially sat dormant for the 18 months of the remodel, and have only recently seen very minor use (we're doing additional renovations and will not live there until 9/1).

    We had the standard DEP water test for coliform and bacteria completed, and it came back with a clean bill of health. The water is, by state standards, potable.

    However, it wreaks of rotten egg (I'm assuming H[SUB]2[/SUB]S).

    My biggest questions are as follows:

    1. Should I run the water for a good several hours to sort of get what's been sitting for so long out of the system? If so, how long is long enough to know I'm getting fresh groundwater again?

    2. Is it even remotely safe for me to attempt to lower myself into the old well to reach the cap, open it, and attempt to shock the system with 1/2 gallon or so of bleach? I hear horror stories about H[SUB]2[/SUB]S build up in well pits, and, though this isn't a well pit, it sure sounds like a possible death trap. How would I know if it's safe or not? When opening the trap, it doesn't wreak of anything, but that could all change when the cap is taken off of the drilled well portion, right?

    3. If I can't go into the well to open the cap and pour in bleach, do I have any other options for shocking the system, or should I move on to other options?

    4. I have looked into drilling a new well. It's running about $6000 as far as I can understand (a totally variable amount, since the companies can't be certain how deep or how much steel casing needs to be put into the ground to hit the bedrock). Is it worth it, based on these odd conditions, to save up and do that, just to get away from the weird setup of this well?

    5. Comparing new-well-drilling to filtration system cost, what is more worth it? And even if I drill a new well, is it any guarantee that I *won't* need to do filtration?

    Help a newbie out—he's confused. :)

    Thanks,
    Frank
  2. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,158
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    What is the diameter of the casing and what material is it made of? It is not beyond the realm of possibility that it was washout bored. My father and I went down over a hundred feet using nothing more than a pump and human power.

    I would be leery about the air quality at the bottom of the old dug well but the cap on the casing should be reachable with little risk. None the less, have a buddy topside and tie your self off with a rope just to be sure.

    One-time shocking of the well probably won't get rid of all the bacteria creating the smell so you may need to have a feed system. Drilling a new well could yield the same water quality issues. Either way, you won't know until you try.
  3. frankrue

    frankrue New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Erieville, NY
    Thanks for the quick reply. I am not sure of the material of the casing, as I'm, frankly, afraid to go down to find out. :)

    I'll have a guy there on Thursday who will take a look—we'll find out more then, and he's a water quality tech, so he'll also be testing the quality of the water on a number of fronts. Again, though, he's going to be biased because he sells the filtration systems, so I'm leery from that perspective: not knowing what is a legit recommendation vs. a sales pitch.
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,158
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    There are a few tests that you can do to try to find the source of the smell. First off, try to grab a sample from as close to the well source as possible. This is because the bacteria can live in the well and/or in the plumbing. I have had cases where there would be a smell from just one or two faucets. One was the hand sprayer at the kitchen sink. Pulling the plastic hose and disinfecting it with bleach took care of it. The other was just the cold tap in one lavatory. Again, pulling the supply lines and cleaning them with bleach resolved it. I run the water heater hotter than most and that purports to keep the bacteria from forming in the hot supply.
  5. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,158
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    My father's well stunk and so too did all of the neighbour's wells. No amount of shocking would have helped there. The municipality had also bored soil test holes at all the bridges in the area and they sprung up as artesian with the same stink. We had to get after the municipality to bring back the soil testing firm to plug up all the test holes.
  6. masterpumpman

    masterpumpman New Member

    Messages:
    729
    Location:
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I remember years ago people going into dug wells to service or clean them. Many came out sick or not alive. Don't go into any confined well today, it's not worth it. If the dug well is only 25 feet deep and the washed in casing is much deeper, It doesn't matter the old dug part of the well could have been filled up to the top with clay and soil to prevent contamination the washed in part of the well. They probably washed the well inside of the old well because it was 25 plus feet already. Thay's like starting to wash a new well from 25 feet. As far as the sulphur, If you drilled a new well it may or may not contain sulphur. If you have enough water in the washed in well and it is clear of coliform bacteria, I'd consider treating it with a water conditioner designed to remove the sulphur. At this point drilling a new well would be my last option!
  7. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Seems like renting a pump or mucking it out with buckets from above, combined with a real air blower would get you safely to the cap for service. Then extend the cap to the floor line.
  8. frankrue

    frankrue New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Erieville, NY
    So I had three different Water Treatment folks come out. Two were from big companies (Culligan Franchise and Kinetico), but the other was a local who also drills wells. I was able to get a consensus that wells in that area typically have a sulfur problem—and it's a hydrogen sulfide gas problem (not a bacteria problem).

    Now I'm faced with three options...

    1. I can get a hydrogen peroxide injection tank, along with a Fleck Centaur filter tank from the local guy
    2. I can get a single tank from the Culligan guy (some proprietary brand that they resell called WaterRight IMS)
    3. I can get a Kinetico Sulfur-Guard (standard two-tank system with a separate media between).

    The first two options are about the same price. The last option (Kinetico) is almost double.

    I'm aware of the mechanical advantages and the efficiency of the Kinetico. I'm also aware of the price. I'm curious to know what would be the best option for the money based on others' experience with these three different options.

    All of the folks have been in business for decades, so I'm not *too* concerned about service, but I'll listen to whatever you folks have to say about it, as well.

    Thoughts?
  9. lockewell

    lockewell New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    You may be able to take care of the issue through a chemical injection system by using something like a perastaltic pump, ex. Stenner. This would be alot less expensive up front and alot easier to maintain. Although, this would only be a solution if you will be able to house the chemical(s) in your basement where the well is located.
  10. frankrue

    frankrue New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Erieville, NY
    Yes, that's essentially half of what my local guy is saying (hydrogen peroxide injection), though he recommends the Centaur filter afterward to collect the oxidized, elemental sulfur. I can probably size, purchase, and install the equipment myself (not the Kinetico brand), but I want to know what others have experienced *over time* with each type of system: chemical injection, backwashing single media filter, or dual-tank backwashing media filters... Is one system more successful than the next, or is one system more problematic than the next, or is one system significantly more maintenance than the next?

    These are the big Qs for me...
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