Sunday, November 20, 2011

And you're a big old wuss if you don't jump in the water (a.k.a. Well Done Broke 12)

Flashback time.

Normally when our well gets low, the water becomes sulfury-smelling and occasionally a little cloudy. However, back in August, a day or so after Dave's first visit in which he bled out our well to test its depth, we experienced some rather unsettling water issues beyond just the usual hint of brimstone. One day we woke up and had gray and brackish-looking water filling our toilets. It did not stink, but instead had the visual equivalent of stench in that it looked more than vaguely greasy and its surface contained the sort of tough but tiny bubbles you might see form on the surface of water in standing pools at the edge of, say, a septic drainage ditch. Yeah. When that happened, I immediately called Dave and told him something horrible was going on. In my nightmare, somehow our septic system (which is technically down hill on the other side of our house) had somehow backflowed into the mostly-drained well and had filled it up. Unlikely, but terrifying, no?Link
On that day back in August, Dave assured me that the brackish water was likely the result of silt build-up on the sides of the well casing, or within the borehole of the well itself, being exposed to oxygen due to having the water drained off of it and it was now flaking off into the water below and forcing its microscopic way through our 5 micron house filter. Sure enough, a look at the sludge on our filter was enough to give me the willies all over again, and it was the one I nearly broke my coccyx replacing.

Jump to this month, three days in to our new tank system, when I awoke to find that our toilets, when flushed, were filling with gray and brackish water.

"Oh hell," I said.

I dashed to the garage where I could instantly see that the 500 gallon tank no longer shone with the clean blue tint that it had on the previous morning. Now it was darker. Grayer. Brackishier. I stood on a chair and unscrewed the foot and a half wide access plug at the top top for a look inside. It was filled with the very same ugly water that was circulating into our toilets. Shit.

I called Dave.

"Hey, buddy. What's going on?" he said.

"Well, I've got 400 gallons of green sludgy water," I said.

"Ohhhh, no," Dave said.

Dave assured me, as before, that as nasty as it looked, this was only a silt problem and it was a temporary one. The silt would settle out in a couple of days and the well would be fine one it had fully recharged. I pointed out that this might be true of the well itself, but 400 gallons of sludge water were not going to be so easy to get rid of. What could we do with it? Pour it back down the well casing and hope it filtered out next time? Dave said that was a bad idea that would probably make things worse by stirring up more silt. We shouldn't drain it at all. Sure, the water was ugly, but it was largely harmless. We weren't going to want to drink it, but it wouldn't hurt us to use it for other things until cleaner water came through. It would even settle within the tank itself, and if we wanted, he could come back and install a third filter between the tank and the house. In fact, I shouldn't even bother changing either of our current filters, because they might look nasty on the outside, but they were still good for a while. I should give him a call if things were still bad on Wednesday.


Instead of following this advice exactly, I booked it to Lowes and purchased a chub-pack of water filters. From what I could tell, 50 micron filters are apparently standard use for city water. The kind our filter uses are typically 5 micron filters, which should filter out that much more. I bought a chub pack of those, but also bought two 2 micron filters in the hope they'd be even better. These I immediately installed in the new garage filter and the one beneath the house (which also looked foul).

As I knew, the wife was not happy about the sludgy water in the tank. She had one look at it and said, "The hell we're not draining this. I can't have my family using water that looks like that." I concurred.

So we wound up draining most of it out. (I would have piped it into the rain barrels, but they're full. So I drained it into the back yard, which is at least above the well and so hopefully most of it will eventually soak back through the soil and rock to reach the subterranean water supply again.) And we gave the well a good 22 hours rest, which at approximately a 12 gallon per hour refill would be about as much time as the well should take for it to refill to its usual 250 gallon default. The water that came out was not crystal clear, but was a damn sight better than it had been. Our new plan became one of babying the well, adding only 100 gallons per day in the hope that by the time company arrives for Thanksgiving, we'll be good.


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