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More expense for costly Compton well

But the Boring district's most costly well is nearly ready to produce water without sand


The Boring Water District appears to be winning the battle against its nemesis: the Compton Road water well.

That well, dug nearly 10 years ago, has turned out to be a place where the water district figuratively throws ratepayers’ money down the deep hole.

Its problems have included not enough water; sand collecting in filters, thus stopping the flow of water; digging the well deeper to increase the flow of water; encountering “flour” sand (very small particles of sand) that pass through every filter; filling about 100 feet of the well with concrete to seal off the “flour” sand layer; and ruining an expensive 150-horsepower pump motor because of the sandy water.

Every time Olsen Well Drilling and Pump Service tried to get water without sand or dig the well deeper or seal the well with concrete or change the pump, it has cost the district.

But neither the district manager nor board members have had a good choice. Board Chairman Bob Boring said it would not be prudent to abandon the well after spending all that money to dig a 12-inch hole 600-700 feet deep and buying a 150-horsepower motor and matching pump.

The prudent move has nearly been accomplished, and there were some smiles at last Thursday night’s gathering of the board — a meeting with engineer Pat Curran of Curran McLeod, consulting engineers in Portland, as well as the well driller and pump installer.

After a couple of hours of discussion, the group decided to put a 75-horsepower motor and matching pump at a shallower depth in the well, an expense of more than $24,000, and pump less water than had been tried previously with a larger pump.

The well, located on Compton Road just north of the Highway 212 to Highway 26 interchange, already has had about 100 feet of the bottom filled with concrete to seal off the “flour” sand, which could not be filtered out of the water system.

The well driller also has cut slits in the well casing about halfway down the well (a little more than 300 feet down) to allow more water to enter the well.

All of the electronic components (worth about $50,000), Boring said, can be used on the 75-horsepower motor, so none of that is a loss.

“That’s why we’re staying with the 75-horse motor,” Boring said. “That way, we don’t lose any of the (electronic) drive gear.”

But the 150-HP motor is a total loss, and the pump designed to work with a 150-HP motor will just be kept in storage in case there is a problem with a similar district pump.

But drilling the last 100 feet into that “flour” sand was a loss. And filling those 100 feet with concrete also was a loss, but since the district received a grant for that expense it wasn’t that much of a loss, Boring said.

“The well is there, and there’s good viable water in it,” he said. “We just gotta figure out how to get it out and get it in the system.”

Lest anyone think the water district is out of the woods with the well rehab, another recent problem has reared its ugly head.

Boring said the water coming from the well now smells like rotten eggs. It’s hydrogen sulfide gas, he said, that dissipates into the air soon after it is exposed to the air.

“There is a very mild odor of hydrogen sulfide coming from the water,” he said. “If we were able to pump that into a reservoir instead of putting it into the water system pipes, the rotten-egg smell would dissipate in the tank’s air vent (above the water in the reservoir).

“There’s nothing that says you can’t drink the water; it just doesn’t smell very good.”

But no one on the board thinks any ratepayer will like drinking the water if it smells like rotten eggs.

The solution is to inject a very small amount of highly diluted bleach (hydrogen chloride). That will take away the smell and/or taste of the objectionable gas. But such treated water also does not taste like chlorine, Boring said.

The equipment needed to inject that chlorine solution will cost in the neighborhood of $10,000, Boring estimated, but bids have not yet been requested for that equipment.

The purpose of digging the Compton well years ago was to supplement water at the north end of the district, especially in case the fire department needs a lot of water to fight a fire.

Most board members think the well will continue to get better if the pump is left on continuously, pumping about 100 gallons a minute rather than at the higher peak flow. But they realize that in the winter the pump will have to be shut down occasionally because of less demand.

Boring, who has been on the board for five years, is not sure if anyone has added up what the total expense has been for the Compton well.

When asked about it, he laughs and exclaims, “Oh God!” to show his feelings about the well’s constant drain on district resources over nearly a decade.

“I can’t add it up and tell you,” he said answering the question. “I wasn’t on the board when it was first drilled.”