I usually can recognize the professional drilling contractor when I drive up to a drill site, and see that the driller and his drill crew are wearing hard hats. It has nothing to do with drilling or grouting, but it has everything to do with safety, image and professionalism. It’s also an OSHA requirement. If OSHA shows up at a drill site, expect the company to be fined heavily if the employees on the site aren’t wearing their hard hats. Putting on their hard hats after OSHA arrives is too late. I wrote a previous article on being proud to wear your hard hat, but I think few people took it seriously.

My article this month is about grouting. In my travels, I see contractors who follow the state and county regulations on grouting, while others are just determined not to follow the rules. Some state and counties have ridiculous requirements, while others are reasonable. Many of the regulators in charge of regulating the grouting don’t know what’s involved in the proper grouting, abandonment of wells, or grouting geothermal loops. Many regulators don’t want to learn proper grouting methods because they are the regulators. State regulators should be required to attend schools on proper grouting methods and materials; many couldn’t pass the most basic examinations on the proper grouting requirements in their state. However, there are a few regulators who want to learn, and who attend drilling and grouting classes at the state, regional and national well shows.

One geothermal contractor was fined several thousand dollars for not properly grouting loops on a specific job. I wasn’t able to get the whole story, but was advised that the contractor topped off the loops with gravel. That’s definitely not proper grouting.

Some drillers could not care less about grouting holes properly, while others want to protect our ground water. I see contractors with the most basic of equipment who do an excellent job of grouting, while others have the best equipment and don’t know how or care to grout properly. There are drill operators (non-drillers) who tell me that they are grouting loops to the bottom when anyone can see that they only are running the tremie line down the hole five feet. These people don’t know how to grout properly, or they just are taking shortcuts.

I was overseeing a geothermal job recently, and each time the contractor grouted a loop, the driller would top off the proceeding holes as the grout receded. That’s a driller who cares and wants to do the job properly. Most drillers are competent and want to do the best work they know how, while a few only consider it a job.

I urge you to keep up to date with the regulations by attending your state well drilling shows when possible, as grouting regulations won’t get any easier.