Well drillers often are called on to do everything from getting animals out of dug wells, to recovering stolen car dealers’ keys from wells, to pumping out flooded basements. Sometimes, the requests are almost unbelievable.

While in the drilling business in Adel, Ga., we were contacted by the Georgia Highway Patrol to meet them immediately at the Adel truck stop. They wouldn’t discuss the problem over the telephone. Upon arriving at the truck stop, we learned it was not a problem with us, but a problem with a tanker transport that wrecked on Interstate 75 near Adel.

The tanker had crushed the truck cab when it came uncoupled and landed on the truck beside the interstate. They needed us to pump an unknown liquid from the transport before they attempted to lift the tanker off the truck cab. Our first concern was whether or not the unknown liquid was flammable. Our second concern was our personal safety on the interstate.

Thinking that the driver probably was dead, or if alive, probably in the hospital, I nevertheless asked the patrolman if the driver was alive so we could ask him what the unknown liquid was. The patrolman said that we could ask him when he got off the telephone to his boss. The driver was explaining to his boss that the truck wasn’t repairable and that he could not continue on anytime soon. When later seeing the truck cab, I was surprised the driver even could have survived.

The driver advised us that the chemical was a dry-cleaning fluid – carbon tetrachloride. It weighed about 12 pounds per gallon. Being nearly full, the transport was too heavy for the wreckers to lift. Carbon tetrachloride formerly was widely used in fire extinguishers and as a precursor to refrigerants. Therefore, there was no danger of a fire or explosion from the chemical.

The danger was from tourists driving 70 miles per hour, and potentially running into us while gawking at the accident. However, we felt quite safe, because we had several fire trucks, police cars, patrol cars, large trucks and several large wreckers, policemen and patrolmen at the scene protecting us. When we would hear tires squealing, we would head for the protection of the big trucks.

Knowing the chemical was safe, we were able to use a regular gasoline engine-operated trash pump to transfer the chemical. However, it took several hours to transfer the chemical from the wrecked tanker transport to another one. Once this was done, they were able to remove the damaged tanker and the destroyed truck from the site.

Needless to say, due to the urgency and the danger of being hit by traffic, transferring and salvaging the chemical wasn’t cheap. Carbon tetrachloride was – and is – very expensive.

Most drillers enjoy unusual challenges. It’s like figuring out a puzzle – only on a larger scale.