Dewey Wright's company drills the North Carolina peaks.

The mountains of northwest North Carolina and northeast Tennessee are beautiful, but they can be tough on water well drillers. Narrow, winding roads, steep drop-offs and deep wells all present formidable challenges.

In 1996, Dewey Wright Well and Pump Co. of Boone, N.C., finally had enough of the trouble its drill rig was experiencing. “It required a whole lot more maintenance than we liked. We were trying to get away from the maintenance problems we were having,” explains owner Dewey Wright Jr., who has taken over the day-to-day operation from the company's founder and his father, Dewey Sr.

Jerry Sherman of Rotary Drilling Equipment, Olyphant, Pa., was instrumental in bringing a new era to Wright. Sherman introduced Wright to the Driltech T25KW drilling rig. “We liked the way it operated and the way it broke out of the hole,” Wright tells us. The company now runs five of the rigs.

Maintenance Concerns

The maintenance issue is important for any equipment operator; with a family-owned business such as Dewey Wright Well and Pump, it can make the difference between a successful year and one that's much less so. “If you've got a lot of projects to do, you sure don't want to be working on the rig because it costs you a lot of time and you're spending money on parts. We haven't needed many repairs even to the original rig we bought in 1996,” Wright says.

Wright's project types break down thus: 95 percent residential water wells and 5 percent small commercial or municipal wells. The company also drills monitoring wells around underground gasoline storage tanks and has done a fair amount of drilling for the installation of residential geothermal heating and cooling earth loops. When a water well driller is parking his rig in someone's backyard, particularly in the mountainous terrain in which Wright operates, it's vital that the drilling rig be well-engineered and operator-friendly.

“That was the problem with the other units we were using. They started making them with such big derricks on them, and they became too top-heavy in this mountainous region. We needed something not quite so top-heavy,” Wright explains.

A good water well drilling crew can finish most residential jobs in a day, going down 500 feet to 600 feet. But when the drillers encounter thick clay, gravel and even boulders over solid bedrock, they need equipment that's equal to the challenge. The deepest hole drilled with a Driltech rig has been 1,200 feet. “That's pretty deep,” Wright says in his laid-back North Carolina accent.

Rig Features

The T25KW is manufactured by Sandvik Mining and Construction's Driltech product group in Alachua, Fla. It is a truck-mounted, top-drive water well drill. Pullback is up to 30,000 pounds with a typical application of 6-inch holes to a depth of 600 feet. The rig features a carousel loader and up to 640 feet of drill pipe. The drill table has a 20-inch opening for large casing. The T25KW is designed for the contractor working in areas with hard rock formations such as granite that requires maximum productivity. An optional mud pump adds capability to mud rotary drill.

All these features have been vital to keeping Dewey Well and Pump Co. up and running in the Appalachian Mountains, where tough work sites are the norm. In fact, there is one area of North Carolina, called North Cove, where other drilling companies don't even like to go. To be accurate, they may go once or twice, and then beg off from further jobs after having to deal with everything from caves to quicksand. Wright is happy to step in and help his customers get their water wells drilled.

Dewey Wright Sr. got into the water well business in 1961, after learning the industry by working for a local company that made well-drilling tools. He founded Dewey Wright Well and Pump and was its driving force for many years, until he let his sons, Dewey Jr. and John, help take over. Now the elder Wright comes in to the office three to four hours a day, down from the 15 hours a day he typically used to work. Even the two brothers don't spend much time on work sites anymore, leaving that part of the business to the company's 35 employees. Drilling season normally lasts nine to 10 months. The rest of the time, employees retool and rest while watching the snow fall in the mountains.