Going above the minimum can lead to high quality wells and satisfied customers.
by Gary Shawver, MGWC
I received a message from a state regulator after I wrote my first column on the grouting of water wells. With that, I’ve opted to give my views on minimum grouting standards in this latest installment of “Drawing from the Well.”
When I began in the water well industry in 1976, my father, who started and operated the business for 40 years, was doing some basic grouting. We didn’t have many regulations covering grouting in Iowa yet, but we did by the late 1980s. But even then and still today our minimum state requirement is to grout 40 feet.
As I got more into the business and as our company got more into going to deeper aquifers for higher quality water, I realized we needed to shut off some of the water in upper aquifers. Some of the upper aquifer water we had to drill through was quite prolific and the formations that produced it were highly fractured bedrock. It was not easy to drill through, and the fact it made lots of water made it difficult to grout as it consumed a lot of grout.
Pros and Cons
The double-edged sword on this is while the grouting sealed off the water and gave us a well the customer both needed and wanted, the extra cost for the grouting was a hard issue to deal with.
I found I had to make it clear if the customer wanted a truly good well, we needed to do this. I also kept in communication with the customer during the well construction and grouting process, especially if the well project was consuming a lot of grout.
I eventually made the decision for the company to go from minimum grouting to full-length grouting of the casing. We even got to the point where we grouted a 5-inch liner inside a 6.375-inch inside diameter casing with neat cement.
Procedures had to be developed to overcome the difficulty of doing this and we became successful with this as well. This method prevented us from having to go to the extra cost of starting with an 8-inch well on a really deep domestic water well, thus helping keep the costs under control.When we made the decision to go to full-length grouting on all our domestic wells, we found callbacks and complaints from customers dropped dramatically. The reputation for doing quality water wells actually helped us increase our business and increased our profits from less callbacks.
Going the Distance
There are many issues full-length grouting can eliminate in water well construction.
One of the big ones is the migration of water between aquifers. If a well is letting water migrate along the outside of the casing to a lower aquifer due to lack of grout on the outside of the casing, or leaking water over the top of a liner and into the wellbore, we have found time and again mineralization of the water increases dramatically.
In our area, iron and manganese will precipitate and foul wells and create water quality issues for customers. This also requires more maintenance of a well as a result of the need for removing the buildup of minerals over time.
The other issue full-length grouting eliminates is the mixing of water between aquifers. Often, deeper aquifers have more pristine water and many of the upper, shallower aquifers are found to have contaminants from farming or simply due to sinkhole runoff, as is the case in our area. We have an obligation in the industry to protect those deeper aquifers for future generations to use.
As with any change in how we do things, there are challenges to overcome. Water well contractors have been innovative due to the nature of our industry and we need to use our innovative ideas to figure out how we can provide full-length grouted wells to our customers. After all, they are the ones who rely so heavily on our integrity to get them high-quality water well systems.
In the long run, I believe the benefits of doing full-length grouting will outweigh the extra costs.
Gary Shawver, MGWC, is president of Shawver Well Co. Inc. in Fredericksburg, Iowa. He has been in the water well industry for 40 years and is a Master Groundwater Contractor. He has served as president of the Iowa Water Well Association, the Iowa Groundwater Association, and most recently served on the NGWA Board of Directors. Shawver is semi-retired, having sold his business to his employees. He contributes to NGWA’s member e-publication and can be reached at email@example.com.