*Water Well Repair*
Or... How I Learned to Keep the Water Flowing
By: Robard
31 October 2011

When Fenix told me that there wasn't any water coming from the sink faucet, my first thought was, "Good grief, there goes another $300 plus to the well guy.". After checking to make sure we were still getting power to our pumphouse and no water at the spigot by the pressure tank, I called the well guy, only to find out that he was out of town for the week. I checked both circuit breakers to insure there wasn't a power issue, as the control box was being fed by two 110v circuits to make the 220v needed to power our submersible pump. The control box was receiving full power and, when listening very closely, I could hear the pump engaging, but we weren't getting any pressure.

My next step was to back feed the line from the spigot above the well to prime the pump, in case there was a small clog on the lower check valve. I got 20psi of pressure by back feeding but, when I engaged the power hoping for a pressure spike, I actually lost pressure. I checked the pressure tank and found that it was still holding pressure. I knew then that the problem was down the well, so I called up a couple of friends so that we could manually pull the pump out of the well. It is important to have at least two able bodied adults when doing this as you can't really stop once you start pulling the line out of the well or you risk either bending, possibly breaking the line on a corner, or having the entire line getting pulled back down the well.

My submersible pump weighs about 30-40lbs. Then the water line adds another 30lbs or so when not filled with water, so having enough manpower on hand is very helpful. There were three men pulling our line (myself included) and taking it in turns to have a break, while the other two were busy pulling up line. There were two other adults helping out where they could to keep kids distracted and hand tools and such. The actual time involved with pulling the line wasn't long, but having a relief puller was priceless. Once the pump was above ground, there was a lot of mud noted on the water line and pump that indicated that, if nothing else, we still had about 22ft of water (or mud) left in the well. I got a fishing line and a socket to check water depth and after it stopped, dropping around 110 feet, I slowly pulled it up trying to figure out where the mud ended and the socket would be drawn up and then not sink down every time I pulled up more line. Somewhere around 70 feet of line left in the well, I got full weight on the fishing line and it kept dropping back down to the same spot, indicating that I had a good amount of mud (sediment) in the well.

I then got a five gallon bucket to put the pump in and filled it with water to check the pump to check if it was even drawing water. I learned two things nearly instantly. One important item learned is that, even though the pump was supposed to draw water at about 10 gallons per minute, it pumped the bucket out rather faster than that, so anyone else trying this should have another bucket handy to refill with or a larger container of water. The second thing noted was the split in the water line at about the 30 foot mark (from the pump going up) that gave everyone a suprise shower. Upon closer inspection it was found that, when the well guy had last pulled the pump out of the well and lowered it back in, he had let the water line scrape the side of the well casing, which resulted in a long gash down the side of the flexible plastic line, which may or may not have been leaking since the pump had last been put back into commission. I think that the gash had been leaking for a good while before finally splitting enough to prevent any water from making up to ground level. After the line split, it was basically just recycling the water within the well. The water spraying out of the line was eroding the side of the well casing, which caused the sediment to build up in the bottom of the well. Then, when the water level got low enough, the water cycled enough to muddy up the water. I believe that split widened after the water level in the well dropped below the split due to the decrease of pressure around the flexible plastic line.

During the research phase of this project I learned a lot about wells, and how each of the components work within the system. The parts of the system from the bottom of the well up are the well casing, which is pretty much a pipe shoved down in the ground that is lined (at least near the bottom) with sand and gravel to allow the water to flow in and keep the walls from collapsing, while keeping most of the sediment and mud from flowing into the water supply. My system employs a submersible pump which, as the name implies, sits near the bottom of the well in the water and is connected to the water feed line, which is usually a flexible plastic tube that runs from the pump, out of the well casing, and into the the pressure tank. There is also a power line running from the water pump to the control box. This power line is either a three or four wire line, depending on the pump being used.

The pressure tank is a metal container that looks like a large propane tank and has a rubber bladder inside that can be filled via an innertube valve stem and keeps the water pressurized when the pump is not running. There is a pressure switch in between the feeder line and the pressure tank that is connected to the control box. When the water pressure drops below a certain preset mark, an electrical circuit closes and allows power to flow to the pump and start pumping water. The pressure switch has both a lower limit and an upper limit to turn on the pump when it gets too low and turn off the pump when the pressure rises to a certain amount.

The water pipe then leads off to the various spigots, faucets, and appliances in the house. The control box, which I'm not going to get into here, is pretty much power distribution with a capacitor to give the surge of the electricity to the motor during startup. If you're having problems with power on your own well, check the capacitor for bulges and/or a black tar-like substance leaking out to indicate a capacitor failure. Please be sure to short out the terminals on the capacitor before touching it, if you are going to be replacing it, as it packs quite a wallop. Also, be very careful when opening the control box, as 220 volts can cause muscles to contract and keep you from letting go.

After multiple trips to the hardware store, we replaced the entire feeder line that goes down the well, several sections of pvc pipe and connectors, and added an insulated steel cable to take stress off the water line. This cable will aid in pulling the pump the next time that it needs work, which hopefully won't be for several years.

I hope this article helps others. I no longer need to call someone else out to repair the well, which not only saves me money, but I also learned how simple the system really is. Basically, each component can be easily replaced if you take the time to do it yourself. Everything can be individually purchased at a local hardware store or farm and ranch store. This should easily halve the cost of keeping your well in working order.

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