Drilling industry folks lend a hand to an Illinois family.

Teri and Greg Waters, with their daughter between them, listen as Andy Wiesenhofer explains the bored well process and what to expect from their new well. (Not pictured are the couple's two sons.)
Teri Waters didn't know where to turn. Two weeks after her husband's Navy reserve unit -- the NMCB-26 Seabees located in Peoria, Ill. -- had been deployed in March, the family's well ran dry. But, a couple months later, on a hot summer day on the Illinois prairie, the family received a new well as a token of thanks from the drilling industry.

After problems with the well began, Waters tried all the possible agencies she could think of but found no help.

"I would run out of water all the time," reveals Waters, who lives in Table Grove, Ill., a small rural community in central Illinois. "We'd have to haul water and put it in the well, or we'd have to wait and later I could go down and prime it and water would come back."

But there wasn't even enough water to run one load of laundry -- it would run out in the middle of a cycle -- and she and her three children would have to fill up the bathtub once and then that night, everybody would bathe with the available water.

Help eventually did come --unexpectedly. Having learned about the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund, she called the Illinois lieutenant governor's office and spoke to Eric Schuller. In her conversation with him, when he asked how things were going, she mentioned the problem with the well, not thinking he'd be able to help in this regard.

"He happened to ask me if I was having any problems, and I ended up telling him about the well, that there was just no help out there. I had more or less given up on it," explains Waters, who had had her husband's uncle come out and do a little bit of work to the well, so there'd be some water. "But then Eric [Schuller] surprised and called me back later. Oh gosh, it probably was three weeks later. I didn't even know he was still working on it, to be honest with you. He called me back and ended up putting me in touch with Sue [Bohenstengel]. It all took place from there."

Reynolds Well Drilling bores the Waters' new well.
According to Schuller, Illinois sponsors a program called Operation Home Front, of which the Military Family Relief Fund is a part. The Military Family Relief Fund is a fund unique to Illinois to which ordinary citizens can contribute to help out military families. "One hundred percent of the money collected from the citizens goes to help military families," he explains. The fund aids military families -- 40 percent of whom take large pay cuts when their family member is deployed -- with essential costs like mortgage payments, utility bills and child care. But, the available grants would not cover the cost of a new well.

The other aspect of Operation Home Front, however, is to help address problems these families experience because their family members are away.

After his conversation with Teri Waters, Schuller had done some investigating, first contacting the National Ground Water Association, and then Sue Bohenstengel, executive director of the Illinois Association of Groundwater Professionals (IAGP), whom he called and asked if there was anything the association could do to assist the Waters family with their well.

"Once I got the call, I called my board, explained the situation and asked them if we wanted to get involved by creating a new well for this family. They said, 'Absolutely,'" Bohenstengel recounts. "They thought it was great opportunity to say thank you in general to the men and women who had been serving to protect our freedom. So it went pretty fast after that."

One of the IAGP board directors Bohenstengel called was Andy Wiesenhofer, who went to the Waters' home to survey the situation -- to see if a new well was needed or if the existing well could be repaired. "It was a hand-dug well, approximately 30-some feet," describes Wiesenhofer, a licensed well driller and general manager of Reynolds Well Drilling, Springfield, Ill. "It had a low static level, and the bottom had been filling in with sediment and sand. They didn't have a lot of reservoir to start with and then as the sand came in, they were running out of water." Because it would have taken a great deal to retrofit the well and make it safe, he confirmed a new well was necessary.

The ability to slot the fiberglass casing at the driller's discretion can keep out unwanted formations and allows water to enter at desired points. A Reynolds employee quickly slots the casing to be used for the Waters' well.
With that confirmation, Bohenstengel, knowing the Waters family already was out of water and that time was of the essence, figured out what supplies would be needed to create the well. She then contacted IAGP manufacturer/ supplier members in those segments of the industry to inquire if they would be willing to contribute product or offer a discount on materials. "I was overwhelmingly surprised by the generosity of everybody," Bohenstengel shares.

Reynolds Well Drilling offered its services to create the well; GP Fiberglass donated the well casing, and Shadow Manufacturing, the pump and its installation. A number of other companies -- across the country and not necessarily members of IAGP -- also eager to do what they could to support and show appreciation to the troops, contributed products, services or cash to help construct the well.

About three weeks after the IAGP received the call about the Waters¿ well, with the materials and necessary permits acquired, the new well construction took place.

Based on information from the water survey for the area, Wiesenhofer had determined a bored well would be the best way to go. Using a Gus Pech bucket, or boring, rig, Reynolds Well Drilling created a 65-foot buried slab bored well for the Waters family. Discussing the process and soil composition at the site, Wiesenhofer explains, "Around 30 feet, there was a little formation that produced water, but the majority of it caved. After that, we flooded the hole to get below that caving formation. On top of the bedrock, right at the interface of the till and the bedrock, I think there was a fracture that was producing water."

Because they take advantage of slower-producing formations, bored wells generally are used to obtain water in areas where getting water is difficult. Unlike a drilled well that typically requires a transmissive 18-inch sand layer to situate a well screen and enough water flow to pump, a bored well uses a larger-diameter casing and maximizes the volume of the casing to create a reservoir from which water can be drawn. With the storage used to provide water during the day, the well then can recharge overnight and return to its static level.

Drillers prepare to insert the well casing.
Lining the Waters' new well is a 30-inch diameter fiberglass well casing. Manually slotted at desired intervals, two 25-foot lengths were used to reinforce the well. With only two joints to install, construction went relatively quickly. Because the fiberglass casing comes in larger lengths and as only a few joints are required, bored wells using this casing usually take only a day to construct and often are completed in a lot less time.

Comparing the fiberglass casing to concrete tiles, Wiesenhofer states: "Personally, I think it's a great well design just because you're able to get a better gravel pack around the outside of the pipe, and you're able to slot it where you want the water to come in. The concrete tiles are jointed every three feet. If there's any type of a formation that you want to try to keep out, there's no way to do it with the concrete whereas with this type you can."

Wiesenhofer also finds that using this casing instead of concrete tile is easier logistically. Rather than hauling more than a semi's load of tile, which weighs about 900 pounds to 1,000 pounds per tile, the team at Reynolds Well Drilling can leave the shop with around 200 feet of pipe on a trailer that can be pulled with a pickup truck, as the fiberglass pipe weighs only about 400 pounds per joint.

Reynolds has been doing business with GP Fiberglass, the Canadian company that manufactures the pipe, for five years and was instrumental in getting the company's fiberglass casing approved for use in the United States a few years ago. Although available in Canada for 20 years, the fiberglass casing could be used here only after it had received the NSF/ANSI 61 potable water rating and had undergone additional testing.

Interested in seeing a bored well installation using the fiberglass casing, members of various local health departments were on hand to observe the construction of the Waters' well, as were other area drillers. Making the day all the more special, Reservist Greg Waters had returned home from his overseas deployment two days prior and was able to be present for the event.

The new well construction was a great success and very much appreciated by the Waters family. Recognizing Schuller, Bohenstengel, Wiesenhofer and everyone involved in making the new well a reality, Teri Waters acknowledges, "Everybody was just wonderful. I really appreciated everything they did."

Shortly after the well was installed, the IAGP received official recognition for the bored well project from the U.S. Department of the Army, 88th Regional Support Command, for its support of military families. The association also was recognized by the Illinois Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, under the Office of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense in Peoria, Ill.

With regard to the project and all those who contributed to make it happen, Sue Bohenstengel shares, "It made me feel good to be a part of such a generous and giving industry."

Likewise, the industry can be very proud of these colleagues who answered the call when help was needed.