Jackson hits lucky hole with new well

Thursday, October 2, 2003

In terms of water, the city of Jackson has struck gold on the north side of town.

The drilling is complete on well No. 7 on Industrial Park property along U.S. 61. Preliminary tests show that Midwest Hydro Drilling hit a sweet spot.

The new well could yield almost twice the water output that was originally estimated by engineers, meaning the city is getting two wells for the price of one.

Everyone associated with the project is, well, gushing with excitement.

"I'm calling this Lucky No. 7," said public works director Rodney Bollinger. "We're going to get more bang for our buck. We may not have to drill another well for a long, long time."

The purpose of the seventh well was to anticipate the demand of Jackson's overall growth. The city has increased its population by more than 3,000 since 1990. More businesses have moved into the area as well.

Well No. 7 will serve mostly the western half of Jackson. Bollinger said low water pressure has been a minor west side issue which worsens during hot summer months.

Based on the production of other wells in the area -- including the six in Jackson -- engineers originally estimated the new well would produce around 450 to 500 gallons per minute.

Doug Luther, vice president of subcontractor Hydro Drilling, said the pump tested out at 975 gallons per minute.

The St. Clair-based drilling company is doing further tests to determine the well's recovery rate and water supply figures over the long term. It's not yet certain whether the well will produce 975 gallons per minute, but it will get at least 750, which is 150 percent of the original estimate. It will outproduce well No. 4, the most productive city well, which provides about 600 gallons per minute.

"We're tickled to death to get such production," Luther said. "We find it to be incredibly interesting. If you look up the information on the wells in the city of Jackson, most of them are producing a yield rate between 250 and 500 a minute."

Bad beginnings

Lucky No. 7 started out to be a pain in the bit. Early on in the drilling process, Midwest Hydro's drill bit broke several hundred feet below the surface. The bit could not be retrieved and the company had to drill another hole about 25 feet away from the first.

Once Midwest Hydro started work on the second hole, it found a layer of clay that presented problems. The Jackson Board of Aldermen had to approve an additional $75,000 for the installation of a casing to keep the hole open.

As workers drilled deeper, the news got better. Measurements showed there was more water down there than originally thought.

Now the city may end up sinking even more money into the project.

"It's a good problem to have whenever you double your yield," Bollinger said. "But some of the equipment is going to be undersized."

Phil Luther, Midwest Hydro president, said the city may want to purchase a bigger pump.

The Luthers will have to finish analyzing the long-term data before saying for sure whether Jackson could use a bigger pump. A bigger pump would cost more, but it might mean being able to save money on a cost-per-gallon basis.

Alderman Larry Cunningham said he'd have to see figures and a recommendation before offering an opinion one way or the other as far as putting more money into the well.

"It sounds like there is an opportunity there, it just depends on how much it is," he said. "We might be able to spend a little more now to save down the road. I'm in favor of saving money."

All told, the city has committed $728,000 to the project.

The board of aldermen, at the same time it approved a change order for an increase of $75,000 for the casing, also approved a change order for a decrease in $92,000. Bollinger said the city cut out some supplies that weren't absolutely critical to the project, like fencing.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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