We went cross-country last month, talking with the presidents of state drilling, water well and ground water associations to learn a little bit about them and their operations. Here we present profiles of some of the state association presidents we met along the way.
Michael AlmsAlms Pump Service Inc., Foley, Ala., and president of the Alabama Ground Water Assn.
Years in Business: 39
Number of Employees: 16
Number of Rigs: 3
I was born into the industry, as my father was a drilling contractor before me. As Hank Williams Jr. would say, "It's a family tradition."
I guess my first actual drilling experience was during the summer months while I was in high school. I have been around the business and the equipment since I was five years old when my father and uncle started the business.
My father, the late Leon Alms, and my uncle, Warren "Babe" Alms, established Alms Pump Service Inc. in 1963. The company will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. We concentrate on Baldwin and Mobile counties on the Alabama gulf coast.
The company does water well drilling from 2-inch to 12-inch diameters and larger. We also sell and service all types and sizes of water well pumps and related equipment, as well as water treatment. We also are involved in monitor, observation and test drilling.
The most high-profile - and difficult - project we've completed is a Flowers-Stewart 18-8 gas well with a depth of 1,716 feet producing approximately 250 mcf per day. We also drilled a 680-foot test well for the city of Gulf Shores, Ala.
I think the fact that we construct and service such a broad range of water well sizes and pumps sets us apart from other contractors. It seems in this area either a contractor concentrates on small residential wells or large industrial or municipal wells, but we do both. We also successfully completed a producing gas well, which seems to be somewhat unique compared to other water well contractors.
Brad HelvieHelvie & Sons Inc., Marion, Ind., and president of the Indiana Ground Water Assn.
Years in Business: 50
Number of Employees: 6
Number of Rigs: 1
My dad and uncle started repairing 2-inch wells in 1953. Grandpa joined them in 1954. Then came drilling 2-inch wells, submersible pumps, drilling 4-inch wells, drilling 5-inch wells, plastic wells and then me.
By the time I was five years old, I spent summers and weekends going to the job sites. I even thought I was helping. I have an older brother Ken, who paved the way for me. I became grandpa's helper on service work. Grandpa instilled confidence in me and everyone else saying, "You can do it."
Helvie & Sons Inc. is still very much a family business with six employees, one IR TH60 drill, water truck, pump hoist, backhoe, trencher, portable compressor and all the gadgets to go with them. We sell on quality and service, not on price, and work well with our competition. Ninety percent of our work is residential and the remainder is light commercial - up to 30-Hp pumps and 8-inch wells.
I believe the most challenging parts of our industry today are to become better businessmen, managers and stewards of the earth to protect our future. My grandfather was active in the Indiana Ground Water Assn. for many years and my dad was on the board of the association for many years serving as president. I simply grew up wanting to give back something to the water well industry.
David GilbertGilbert's Hard Rock Drilling, Mena, Ark., and president of the Arkansas Water Well Contractors Assn.
Years in Business: 7
Number of Employees: 5
Number of Rigs: 3
As a businessman, I always have kept an open eye for opportunities to grow financially and professionally. Back in the mid-90s, I heard of a local drilling contractor who wished to retire and called him for a meeting. After a few discussions, we struck a deal and as they say, "the rest is history."
Even though I had more than 10 years experience in the production and sales of pumps and filtration, drilling was a new game. I watched my first well drilled as I negotiated to purchase the drilling company.
We began drilling in 1995 with the purchase of Bates Drilling Co. in Mena, Ark., and changed the name to Gilbert's Hard Rock Drilling Co. of Smithville, Okla. Further expansion offered with the purchase of Meredith & West Drilling of Hot Springs, Ark. My 26-year-old son works with me and has since the company began. I have a succession plan in the developing stage.
Being a country boy, I believe that when you go to the barn to milk the cow, you milk all four teats before you go back to the house. We take pride in being able to do the complete job: drilling, pump systems, filtration and trenching and hook-up.
The majority of our drilling is of a residential nature, but we take a number of jobs that are special, such as DEQ designs to combat gas spills or cathodic protection, which many times is in restricted space - even once in the median of a busy street.
Probably the most difficult project we have drilled was for piers to anchor a radio tower on top of Mt. Rianite in Hot Springs. The project grew after we made the two-mile straight up drive. To make a long story short, we wound up using rented jackhammers to enlarge the holes to accommodate the anchors, but what a view!
The most challenging aspect is to adjust daily to the varied drilling requirements and customer needs. The most unique aspect of our company is dedication to service. We demand the best construction, equipment and water quality for our customers.
For some reason, the value of water wells has not kept pace with the rest of our economy. As a drilling contractor, I feel it is my duty to help educate the public on the importance of water in general and well water in particular.
Loyd Watson, MGWCWatson Co., Lascassas, Tenn., and president of the Tennessee Water Well Assn.
Years in Business: 27
Number of Employees: 10
Number of Rigs: 2 air rotaries
I became a drilling contractor by desire - a desire that has been instilled in me since childhood. My father was a cable tool driller, who worked for a drilling company for 32 years. He very much wanted me to enter another profession, because of the hardships that goes along with this business. You have heard of the possibility of an occupation being in the blood. It happens.
My first drilling experience was the day after I graduated from high school. I was off to the oil fields of Kentucky. This was very hard work, drilling 3 feet per hour, sharpening at least six bits a day with a sledge hammer after forging, drilling from 6 a.m. to maybe 9 o'clock or 10 o'clock at night. If you like drilling, then this was most enjoyable. This was boom to bust, and I soon came back to Tennessee drilling water wells for other contractors.
I still didn't have my own drilling business that I wanted so badly. I went to work at trucking companies at night. This gave me days free to install pumps and water treatment systems and to help move my father's rig from one location to another. In 1975, with the support and help from my wife, we purchased our first cable tool rig, a B.E. 20-W. Soon we purchased a second rig, a B.E. 22-W. By the seat of my pants and hard work, we have now built a thriving well drilling, pump, water treatment and geo-thermal contracting business. We have two air rotaries, two pump hoists, trenchers, backhoes, a dump truck, grouters and a yard full of support equipment with whatever it takes to do the job efficiently and on time.
We as an industry have not put much thought into the future of how we will exit our business. It seems that most retire and have to sell their equipment at whatever the fair market value is. Our company will continue in operation after my retirement. We have planned for the future and how it will be handed over to the next generation who has that same desire that I had more than 40 years ago. They will not have to endure the pain and anguish that I did to make it work. I often think of how hard and nearly impossible it would be to start a drilling business now. We owe it to our customers for us to be there. I am blessed with sons who will continue on after I retire.
The most challenging aspect of my job now is to find and keep qualified help. I would like to expand my services and purchase more equipment, but I am hindered in doing so by not being able to find good available people. We employ 10 people. I provide insurance, uniforms, retirement benefits and paid holidays.
We try to make our company unique by having all our equipment painted with matching colors to present a professional image, and we do not price our services cheap. This is a serious problem in our industry. Why do we price our services, considering what we do and the price that we pay for the equipment, so cheap? We have company brochures that we give to our customers. I have learned that education is necessary in gaining the edge over the competition.
I achieved Master Ground Water Contractor certification from the National Ground Water Association (NGWA) in 1991. I also learned that we fall short in educating our customers on the use of ground water, protecting the source and how to maintain their wells and water related equipment. I often wonder what would be our situation today if we had recognized the importance of what we do and had taken a larger stance on ground water issues some years back.
I personally would like to see more contractors get involved in service to their industry. This is where we have failed miserably. We should volunteer for service. It should be a job to be a part in trying to make a difference in how and what we do. I have served my association as president, I serve the NGWA as director, I serve the South Atlantic Jubilee as director, I am on the board of the Tennessee Ground Water Management. Why? To make a difference if I can. My goal is to be a part in making this profession one that is recognized, not as an occupation of a prehistoric civilization, but a occupation of people who have a desire to provide and to protect our most precious resource, ground water.
My opinion is that there is a future for this industry, but it will be for those who try to excel in knowledge, to keep expanding their boundaries in services, keep modernizing their operation, promote education to the public about ground water, to get involved in government legislation issues and to keep the passion and desire alive for the drilling industry. Watson Well Drilling Inc. opened for business in 1975 and closure is not in the plans for the future.
Jack BeltW.S. Belt & Sons Inc., Allenton, Mich., and president of the Michigan Ground Water Assn.
Years in Business: 42
Number of Employees: 1
Number of Rigs: Speedstar 135 and 5T Smeal Pump Rig
Our business took shape through a simple need for a home well. Having worked for a well driller, my dad decided to drill his own well. He bought an old cable tool 20W, and W.S. Belt & Sons was born. I worked for him for several years while in high school. After joining the U.S. Navy, becoming an equipment operator in the Seabees, and going to a Class C well drilling school, I served two terms in Vietnam. I saw the importance of good ground water and decided to join my father in his business. He later retired, and I took over the business with my brother, Scott, who is now in the field of education.
We specialize in 5-inch residential wells, but have drilled wells for school districts, fire departments and one difficult 6-inch, 500- gpm flowing campground well. I pride myself in the maintenance of these wells.
The most challenging aspect to my business is that I wear many hats. I work with only one employee. Trying to line up the jobs and do the actual work can sometimes be very stressful. It gives you great comfort with the job completed and the customer satisfied.
Our company is unique because of our exceptional service to the customer. My job does not end with the well being drilled. I feel my job also includes maintaining the performance and quality of every well.
Ground water is our most precious resource. In Michigan, our goal is to protect and promote the quality of ground water for our customers. I also assist in the quest for that goal by being appointed to the Ground Water Advisory Committee, overseen by the Department of Environmental Quality. Among other things, the committee interviews and tests candidates for well drilling and pump knowledge so they obtain their registration.
I have been a proud member of the Michigan Ground Water Association for more than 25 years and a member of the National Ground Water Association for more than 20 years.
Finally, as we say in Michigan - "Say 'Yes' to well water."
Robert B. FrankFrank's Well Drilling Inc., La Plata, Md., and president of the Maryland-Delaware Water Well Assn.
Years in Business: 49
Number of Locations: 2
Number of Employees: 23
Number of Rigs: 4
Walter J. Frank, my father, started the business, and I grew up well drilling. At 16 years of age, I had my State of Maryland Master Well Driller's License and I drilled my first well. It was a 2-inch steel well and was 147-feet deep.
Frank's Well Drilling was formed in 1953 and incorporated in 1967. The office was located in Anne Arundel County, Md., and in 1977, another office was opened in Charles County, Md. The company now is owned and operated by Walter J. Frank's widow, Irene B. Frank, her sons, Robert B. Frank and Michael G. Frank, and her grandsons, Kenneth M. Frank Jr. and Kevin M. Frank Sr. In 1990, we purchased King George Drilling Service Inc. in Colonial Beach, Va. This company is owned and operated by the family also and has been a good addition to our business.
So far, Frank's Well Drilling Inc. has been passed on once. When Walter J. Frank, founder of the company, passed away, the company was passed on to his children. The future of the company's family succession will continue with the grandchildren of Walter - they already are full-time employees, Master Well Drillers and supervisors. And now, great-grandchildren have given the family an additional line of successors.
Our company specializes in domestic water well drilling and installation of water systems and commercial irrigation. Drilling and monitoring wells for water quality in Baltimore City, Md., for the Interstate 95 Tunnel has been one of the most challenging jobs we've completed. The other daily challenge is dealing with customers. Each person is different and each customer feels that their job is special and customers must be treated as such.
We have been in business for 49 years. We guarantee all new wells (including labor) for five years. We have maintained a long history with many of our customers, who have continued to use our services and recommend us to their family and friends.
Stanley GranthamGrantham Drilling Co. Inc., Perryville, Mo., and president of the Missouri Water Well Assn.
Years in Business: 13
Number of Employees: 5
Number of Rigs: 1
I started in the ground water industry as a drill helper in 1964. After working for this company for two years, I became its driller. I worked there until 1970, when I went into farming with my father. My father passed away in 1972; my wife Terry and I bought the farm from my mother. Because of poor farm prices, I went to work for Amex Coal Co. in 1970 and worked for them until I was laid off in 1988. I was interested in finding work that paid more than minimum wage and allowed me to become my own boss.
My son Jason recently has joined the company as co-owner after working for me since he was young. He has a lot of exciting new ideas to expand the company. Hopefully, he will take a lot of the workload off me, so I can slow down a little.
Grantham Drilling Co. was started in February 1989 with a 1973 T64 HB drill and a 1971 Chevy service truck. Three years later, the Chevy service truck was replaced with a 1983 Ford. We worked out of a small three-car garage and all repair work was done in the driveway. The back porch of the house was converted into the office. We worked out of our home for five years.
In 1994, I purchased 2.3 acres in Perry County, Mo. I built a 64-feet by 48-feet shop and partitioned off a corner for the office. No more lying in the driveway to do repairs.
We really do not have any specialties at this time, but are looking to branch off in the near future. What we do offer our customers is good old-fashion service. We drill mostly private water wells, some heat exchange wells and provide water conditioning services. We try our best to provide our customers personal service done in a professional and timely manner.
It has been an honor and privilege to be the president and a member of the Missouri Water Well Assn. All of us here at Grantham Drill Co. understand the significance of the legacy we leave to future generations.
Alan G. EadesEades Drilling and Pump Service, Hobbs, N.M., and president of the New Mexico Ground Water Assn.
Years in Business: 39
Number of Employees: 9
Number of Rigs: Two Ingersoll-Rand Top Head Drives - TH 75 and
TH60, two pulling units
I am a second-generation drilling contractor and continued in my dad's footsteps, because I always enjoyed the work and the people I meet on our jobs. I started going on pump jobs with my dad when I was 5 years old. My first drilling experience was in 1976 at the age of 13 helping my dad drill his first well.
My father's family farmed near Lubbock, Texas, since 1919. In 1963, my father started a pump business to supplement his farming, and in 1976, he expanded into drilling. We moved to Hobbs, N.M., in 1982. Together, my sister Andrea and I now run our family business. Growing up on a farm and working side-by-side our entire lives has created a strong work ethic and a closeness between us that many people never experience. It is this quality that we bring to our business that makes us unique.
Eades Drilling and Pump Service specializes in two primary areas: the drilling and turnkey installation of domestic water well systems and environmental drilling. We also drill irrigation wells and commercial wells, as well as install and service submersible pumps. I am licensed in New Mexico and Texas.
One of the most difficult drilling projects I've performed was an environmental job related to a pipeline rupture in a large city that impacted an entire subdivision. Besides demanding my expertise as a driller, it required strong people skills and coordination efforts to complete because it was a high-profile project that not only had the attention of the pipeline company, various state agencies and the community, but the news media as well.
The most challenging aspect of my job is educating the public on the importance of protecting and conserving water. I have been nominated for the NGWA Board of Directors. I currently serve on the NGWA Rural Water District Subcommittee, the Public Awareness Standing Committee and the MCEllhiney Lecture Task Force.
Richard RaabRaab Well Drilling Inc., Doylestown, Pa., and president of the Pennsylvania Ground Water Assn.
Web site: www.raabwelldrilling.com
Years in Business: 75, retired
Number of Rigs: Ingersoll-Rand Air Rotary T-3 and T-4
I have been in the well drilling industry for almost 50 years. I learned the business from my father, W. Rollin Raab, who started drilling in 1927.
In the early years, we drilled with cable tool rigs. We ran Keystone 50s. I remember going to Beaver Falls, Pa., in 1947 with my father to pick up a new Keystone 50. At that time, the Pennsylvania Turnpike was not completed, so it was quite a trip to travel across the state in a 1936 Ford truck.
We bought our first rotary rig in 1956, a Keystone rotary. That was the early days of down the hole hammers, and there were a lot of problems with the flapper valve in the top of the hammer. The x-shaped carbide bits were not as efficient as the button bits we run today.
In 1959, I married my wife Diane. We had three children, Sharon, Cindy and Rick. In 1973, I took over my father's business. In 1999, I turned the business over to Rick and Sharon. Today they run two rotary rigs, a T4DH and a T3. They have two Flatwater Fleet service trucks, a pump hoist, backhoe, vacuum truck, high-pressure auxiliary compressor and other support equipment.
Raab Well Drilling is a complete drilling business doing residential, monitoring, geothermal, commercial and municipal wells. Pumps are installed for residential, municipal and commercial applications. They have done many pump stations of various sizes, including large storage tanks.
I have been a member of the NGWA for many years. My first convention was 1958 in Washington, D.C. Since 1980, I have not missed a convention. I have been active in the Pennsylvania Ground Water Assn., serving on the board of directors for many years. I currently am president of PGWA, a position I have held for six years.
I have served my community by being a charter member of the Warwick Water & Sewer Authority and the Authority's chairman for six years. I have been a volunteer fireman for 42 years serving as an engineer, chief engineer, assistant chief, deputy chief and chief. I was chief for six years and president for nine years for the Warwick Township Fire Co.
I believe that as a well driller, it is our responsibility to provide clean, pure water to our customers. The public expects clear water without contamination at good pressure. It is our responsibility to protect the ground water for future generations. We, as well professionals, must keep contamination from entering our aquifers that are supplying our drinking water.
This strong commitment to protect our ground water has kept me busy traveling to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's state capital, in an effort to have legislation passed to govern the construction of private wells.
Steve WrightFrontz Drilling Inc., Wooster, Ohio, and president of the Ohio Water Well Association
Years In Business: 43
Number of Employees: 25
Number of Rigs: 16
I was employed by Frontz Drilling Inc. in 1991. My job title is environmental services manager. My job duties include managing the environmental drilling division. I also work on public water well projects and well rehabilitation.
Prior to working for Frontz Drilling, I managed a consulting firm. I was tired of the "rat race" and administrative handcuffs I was subjected to. I saw the opportunity to work for Frontz Drilling as a challenge to breathe new life into their environmental drilling division. I also saw the chance to practice geology and hydrogeology in a hands-on manner.
Frontz Drilling Inc. is a full-service water supply systems and environmental drilling company. The business was established in 1955 and was incorporated in 1991. We currently are operating 16 drilling rigs with a variety of cable tool and rotary machines available, including portable rigs for use in difficult access areas.
Our drilling experience ranges from small diameter monitoring wells to 36-inch diameter commercial and municipal installations, which includes elevator jackholes. Several of these projects included screening and development of double- and triple-cased gravel-packed wells.
Our staff consists of 25 employees, 10 of whom are drillers with a combined experience record of well more than 100 years. Our employees make our company unique. Most of our personnel are cross-trained. We offer a variety of different services and are capable of performing most drilling projects.
Other personnel includes five skilled pump and well service technicians, one full-time mechanic, six experienced drillers' helpers, two administrative assistants and an in-house hydrogeologist. In general, our service area includes Ohio, West Virginia, western Pennsylvania, northern Kentucky, eastern Indiana and southern Michigan.
Our company drills residential, commercial and public water supply wells. In addition, we perform environmental and geotechnical drilling, elevator shafts and other specialty type drilling. We also provide water system design and installation, pump testing and well rehabilitation. Some high-profile projects we've completed are the Summit National Superfund site, Pristine Superfund site, Marathon Tank farm spill and numerous gas station and industrial sites.
Drilling a 230-foot, deep 28-inch diameter hole for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District was the most difficult drilling project we've performed. This was a drop hole for part of the sewer improvement project. This hole was tied into a tunnel that was mined to improve the existing sewer system.
Sometimes scheduling is the most difficult aspect - trying to accomplish all the work with the manpower and machinery available. It is always difficult working for clients who know what they want but don't have much field experience. We must constantly educate clients on the proper way to install their wells.
Janice L. Hawk-BaldwinHawk Drilling Co. Inc., Ballston Spa, N.Y., and president of the Empire State Water Well Drillers Assn.
Years in Business: 75
Number of Employees: 12
Number of Rigs: 2
Becoming a drilling contractor wasn't anything I ever planned to do. I grew up in a third-generation well drilling family and wanted to get as far away from drilling as possible. I went to college and received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in communication disorders and became a licensed speech-language pathologist. I received a second master's in educational administration. I worked for 10 years as a speech pathologist and seven years as administrative vice president for the Center for the Disabled. My husband Bill started working for my father - despite my protests - in 1976. He loved the job and took to it instantly. I could not seem to escape the business.
In 1994, my father was retiring and wanted to sell the business to my brother, my husband and me. Bill recognized that he could not run the business and drill full time. He informed me that I worked too many hours and spent too much time on the road away from home. In order to get my attention, he also informed me that my job was making me look old and if I ran the company with him, I'd have more time for myself and my family. Ha!
Return to Drilling
I can remember going on the drill rig with my dad as a very young child at the age of three. I remember being held by my father, putting my hand on the cable and "drilling just like him." As a child, we often visited my dad on the rig. If we didn't take him a picnic lunch or supper, we might not get to see him. The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I got to follow the rig to the job sites or be the gopher on occasional pump jobs. The year Bill and I got married, I did some billing and filing for my dad. After college, the only time I got near a rig was when I was bringing our children to see their father drill or at a trade show.
After joining the company in 1995, it was the first of many drought years. We were short-handed and working seven days a week. In late October, I traveled up north with my husband to work on his ReichDrill T650W. Bill had started the job the day before and was already 300 feet. I remember the well went to 375 feet, and it was my first experience climbing the catwalk and laying rod. (I think I scared the pants off Bill that day; Grace is not my middle name.)
After that well, we started another that required a lot of casing. I remember thinking it was better than working out at a gym; great for working out different muscle groups. My favorite part of the job is the fashion statement I make in work pants and coveralls. Well drilling attire is not great - there are no work pants or coveralls that don't make your butt look 4-feet wide!
Our company has developed a mission, set up goals and identified our values and our services. We are committed to developing and protecting ground water resources. We believe that education is the key to our success. We provide educational seminars and exhibits at least two times a year for consumers.
This is our 75th year in the ground water industry. Hawk Drilling is a fourth generation family-owned business, which was started in 1927 by my great-grandfather Monte Hawk. He came up from the oil fields in Oklahoma to drill piling holes at the bottom of the Sacandaga River for what was to become the Conklingville Dam. This was to be an interim job while waiting for the oil prices to rise. After the dam was built, Monte found his services to be in great demand and he stayed in the Sacandaga region.
The company name has changed over the years to accommodate sons of each generation. In 1930, my grandfather Guy Hawk started to work with his father and the name changed to Monte Hawk and Son Well Drilling. When Monte died in 1953, the name changed to Guy Hawk Well Drilling, and he moved the business to Saratoga Springs, N.Y. In 1958, Lindell Hawk, my father got out of the service and joined the business, and the name changed to Guy Hawk and Son. In the early 1960s, my Uncle Wayne joined the company and Guy Hawk and Son became Guy Hawk and Sons. In 1967, Lindell wanted to expand and try new things, so he bought a cable tool rig from his father. Hawk Drilling Co. was formed. Guy Hawk died in 1972 and Wayne, who stayed with my grandfather, changed the name to Hawk Well and Pump. When Bill and I were married in 1976, he started working part time in my father's company. My brother joined the business in 1978 and Chris Lang, one of our senior drillers, started in 1980. In the early 1980s, Lindell bought out Wayne and brought everything back under one name once again. The business was incorporated in 1985. Lindell retired in 1994 and sold the company to my brother Curtis, my husband and me.
We provided environmental drilling services until 1999 when a long-time driller and friend left the field. We redefined our plan and hired Jeff Revelia to provide more extensive water treatment services. In 2002, Curtis decided to leave the company.
We have two sons in the business. Our oldest son, Josh, is 23, and he is a certified well driller and pump installer. Our youngest son, Jeremy, is 21. He is a certified well driller and is currently a senior at Plattsburg State University, where he is majoring in geology. He is planning on coming back to work for the company when he graduates in the spring. Josh enjoys pump installation and water treatment. Jeremy loves to drill. Once both boys are working full time in the company, a succession plan will be developed. Fortunately, each son has found his own niche.
There are no more Hawks after me. I tell the boys they will have to change their name to Hawk-Baldwin like me. That does not go over well with them.
Hawk Drilling is proud to deliver services from well to faucet. We provide drilling, well rehabilitation, hydrofracturing, down-the-hole video investigation, pump installation and repair, small and large scale pump testing, repump systems and water treatment. Additionally, we do geothermal drilling, grouting and looping. While most of our work is residential, we also do many commercial and municipal jobs. Given the professionalism of our drilling staff, Hawk Drilling does a lot of trouble-shooting and rehabilitation work on wells and water systems.
We've completed such high-profile projects like drilling new mineral wells in Saratoga Springs and fixing old wells drilled in the 1920s and 30s; geothermal wells at Saratoga Race Track for New York Racing Assn.; wells for Village of Ellenville, Town of Hoosick Falls and Town of Voohreesville; Interstate 87 DOT rehabilitation.
In 2001, Chris Lang went to deepen a 89-foot-well and drilled 41 feet of rock. All of the wells in the area flow 5 gpm to 10 gpm and this was expected. The well flowed at 350 gpm. After talking with several large drilling companies, it was found that no one had any real experience dealing with such large volumes of water. When a company was found that could take care of the job, the price was astronomical and out of the homeowners budget. Chris and Bill designed a packer assembly and grouted the well to reduce the flow of water.
The most challenging aspect of my job is keeping my sanity. Actually it is juggling the needs of our company with the needs of being president of the Empire State Water Well Drillers Assn. Additionally, I have had to learn how to separate my life as a wife and mother from my business life as a partner and a boss.
My gender still is a stumbling block in the minds of some of the older drillers. Women just don't know anything about drilling. I have become a certified well driller and pump installer having passed the general, pump and four drilling exams.
Larry FinfrockHighland Well Service, Prather, Calif., and president of the California Ground Water Assn.
Years In Business: 21
Number of Employees: 2
Number of Rigs: 1
I started from scratch in 1981. My well went dry. I had a new well drilled, and then I waited two weeks for a pump. With some input from the local hardware store, I started Highland Well Service. We specialize and service individual homes with a small amount of commercial work. Twenty-one years later here I am still, maybe?
In 1991, I became the first pump contractor to be elected as president of the California Groundwater Association. I also served in 1992, and this year is my third year as president of our association.
Andy AndersonAnderson Well Drilling, Hollywood, S.C., and president of the South Carolina Well Water Assn.
Years in Business: 44
Number of Employees: 5 full, several part time during the summer
Number of Rigs: 2 mud rotary drill rigs
I became a drilling contractor because I loved the drilling business. It's a family business, and I am a second-generation driller. My first drilling experience was at the age of 12 when I helped my dad drill a shallow well.
Our history begins in 1958 with my dad drilling shallow wells. I bought the business from him in 1986 when he retired, and I continued with shallow wells. I also immediately added water treatment. Then in 1990, I purchased a deep well drilling rig. Anderson Well Drilling installs wells, pumps, water treatment systems and whole-house reverse osmosis units. My son is also a licensed well driller, and we have a succession plan.
Some high-profile projects that we have completed include potable water wells for Nucor Steel Plant in Berkeley County, S.C., several potable water wells for school projects and a potable water well for Middleton Place Conference Center.
The most difficult drilling project we've performed was drilling deep wells (540 feet) for an island project. We loaded equipment, the drill rig and supplies on a barge to be transported to the island. We commuted in our small boat daily, carrying needed daily supplies.
The most challenging aspect of my job is scheduling drilling services so that all our customers' needs are met. A personal goal for me is to promote professionalism within the well drilling industry. Our company motto is "The best ability is dependability."
Kurt PricePrice Pump Co. Inc., Wheatland, Wyo., and president of the Wyoming Water Well Assn.
Years in Business: 18
Number of Employees: 3
Number of Rigs: 1
Price Pump began as - and is still - a family business. I grew up on the back of a small pump hoist. When I started, I was 11 years old. There are a few jobs I remember. I have been on probably 80 percent to 90 percent of the wells in the county. We service several counties - mostly domestic and stock wells.
My father John Price started in the water well business with Buffington & Payne in northern Indiana. John Price Motor and Pump Repair was started in 1975. The name changed to Price Pump Co. as we incorporated in 1993. We specialize in domestic stock, small irrigation systems, windmills, solar/wind pumping systems, water treatment, backhoe-related work and small municipalities. We completed high-profile projects on true ranches, feedlots/stock wells, swine facilities, small municipal systems, golf courses and for the Wyoming National Guard.
The most difficult issue we see is the undervalued ranches/farms. Every year it becomes more difficult for these family businesses to function with a profit. How can a movie star or a sports star make millions providing entertainment and the people who feed our nation go broke?
Chad TuckerWilliam O. Tucker Inc., Hartwell, Ga., and president of the Georgia Drillers Assn.
Years in Business: 33
Number of Employees: 17
Number of Rigs: 3
I became a drilling contractor because I grew up in the family business of grading contracting and water well business. I have always been fascinated with this line of work since I was allowed to go out on a job site.
My first drilling experience was when I was in my late teens. I used to help on bucket rig-boring wells and was a helper on the drill rig occasionally. I also helped to install well pumps.
My parents went into the grading and septic system business in February 1969. My dad and mom always have run the business. Mom looks after the office work and financial matters, while Dad looks after the jobs. In 1976, the family business added water wells and pumps to our service. We have been boring and drilling wells ever since. The company services all the surrounding counties within a 75-mile radius of Hartwell, Ga. We also travel into South Carolina. The company currently employees six certified well drillers and three class IV certified water system operators.
Hopefully my son, Mason, who is so crazy about all of this now, will take up the same career when he is old enough. His biggest thrill is for someone to pick him up at daycare in one of the big trucks or on a piece of equipment.
Ninety-five percent of our work is for single-family homes. We are set up to clear the lot, dig the footing for the house or basement, drill the well, install well pump, install septic system, place gravel for driveway and install filter systems.
We have installed watering systems for a top-notch golf course, installed several water systems for developers of subdivisions and then taken over the water systems for further service to the customers. Our most difficult drilling project has been drilling geothermal holes in a high-class subdivision while trying to contain unconsolidated formations that reach depths up to 200 feet - in other words, sand and mud. The most challenging aspect of my job though is finding high- production wells for customers with chicken houses, golf courses and irrigation systems.