Proposal for a new specialty shallow sand point well water license or permit for the Long Beach WA Peninsula.

Summary:  Do to the unique structure of the aquifer of the Long Beach Peninsula, and a lack of service from licensed well drillers, it is proposed that there be a simplified or specialty well water license for the area, such that people do not have to resort to putting in illegal wells due to the high cost of having a well driller from out of the area install a well that is overly complicated and more suitable for inland areas.

The current system in place does not serve the community and puts an unreasonable financial burden upon the citizens of the area.

The aquifer in this area (see Meyers et al 1996 ground penetrating radar study, or contact me for a copy).  In summary, the peninsula’s water is only a few feet below the ground level and consists of sand with bedrock well over 50+ feet below the surface.  This area of sand and water starts from the basalt rocks off on the southern tip of the area and continues northward to the very tip of the Peninsula.

History of well water on the Long Beach Peninsula

  • Pre PVC pipe wells (from way back-up to and past 1970s) were placed by pumping down a simple galvanized steel water pipe using a pitcher pump where the pipe was in 4 ft or larger sections. The first step was to pick a spot that was at least 50 ft from any septic drain field, but there were more than a few that were closer.  Sometimes a “water witch” was used to pick the location.  The a post hole digger was used to dig down to the point where the sides of the hole would start to collapse into the hole from water suspended in the sand.  At this point a old sand point was attached to the first section of pipe with a small hole drilled in the tip.  A plugged up sand point worked the best such that enough water could be sucked up with the wet sand at the tip of the pipe.  The picture pump was then attached and water from a stored source was used to fill the pump and pipe.  Then you would start pumping the pitcher pump and it would suck the sand from under the pipe, mix with the water from the sand point, and pipe and point would drop down an inch at a time.  Usually pipe wrenches were used to slow the rate that the pipe would drop.  When you got too low to pump anymore, then a new section of pipe would be added.  This continued until the sand had the right color and look, and the water didn’t have any iron in it.  Then you would pump a cavity out around the tip by not letting the pipe drop any lower.  This was a lot of work, as the column of water and sand was hard to pump, and most pitcher pumps had long handles added to them.  When you thought you had a sufficient amount of sand pumped out of the way, you would quickly pull up the pipe and modified sand point, and push the new pipe line and sand point into the hole.  You had to be quick as the sand and water mix could fill the cavity in quickly.
  • PVC pipe wells and pumping or jetting down a casing (currently the way most are done here.). The process is similar in the location and starting the hole.  In this way you first dig down to a point that is damp, and deep enough to help stand up the section of “casing” being used, which is usually a 4 or 6 inch diameter piece of PVC thick walled pipe (schedule 80) of 20+ ft.  In this process a low pressure, high volume trash pump run by a small gasoline engine is attached to the casing on the pressure side of the pump.  Then the casing is stood up vertically in the hole that was hand dug, and the pump started.  The pump is connected to a small water tank of clean water and care has to be taken not to introduce bacteria or other contaminates into the aquifer.  Once the water has filled the casing far enough, you lift the casing up to start the water flow of water around the lower end, which pushes the sand back up and out of the hole on the outside of the casing, and usually the casing goes down rather quickly.  You can stop and attach another section of casing if needed and restart the flow of water again.  When the casing is as low as is desired, the water and pump are shut off, and the hose disconnected from the casing.  Now the hose is attached to the well pipe on one end, and the other end gets the new sand point.  Again the pipe is stood up and inserted into the casing.  The pump is started again, and the point and pipe are again jetted down into the casing.  If more than one section of 20 pipe is needed, it can be glued onto the first piece and the pumping begun again.  Next a rubber garment that fits onto the casing is attached with a stainless steel hose clamp, and fits also over the well pipe, which is also clamped with a stainless steel hose clamp.  The trash pump suction side is attached to the new well and the water from the new well is used to fill the tank for next time.  A small amount of Clorox is added to keep the water clean in the tank.
  • Recently added requirements for well points in the area. Currently the area between the casing and the well pipe is to be filled with bentonite to stop any contaminated water to flow down the casing to the well point, though the rubber coupler should last for decades.  The bentonite (which is a main ingredient of cat litter) is to be placed within 5 ft of the sand point.  Also, cement is recommended to be placed around the outside of the casing, down a few inches to ring the top of the well to keep contaminated water from flowing down the outside of the casing, yet the sand that is just below the top soil makes a great filter and is what keeps the aquifer separated from the surface everywhere else already.

Current requirements to be a licensed well installer:  currently you are required to put in 600 hours under a licensed well installer, and there is no requirement of the licensed well installer to qualify anyone working under him or her.  I know of one ex-employee of a licensed well installer who told the employee that “they would not fill out anything for him.”  So he was denied even though he had many more than the 600 hours.  This has resulted in a monopoly in the area.  Until recently, many people hired someone to place a well, then told the Dept. of Ecology that they installed it themselves or that they found an existing well rather than pay the higher amount demanded by the only local well installer.  Prices from well drillers from out of the area are extremely high.  What used to cost only $600 for a shallow sand point well now can cost over $18,000.00!

The problem:  While it is important for people who have existing home to be able to have clean water, it is also important that they should be able to have a well point fixed if it starts to draw up sand or plugs up with iron.  If the well casing has been filled with bentonite, then the well pipe can not be pulled up out of the casing.  So people will be forced to have a new well installed.  Most of our population is retired and on fixed incomes, and I would bet more than a few couldn’t afford the cost to have clean safe water. Just look up our median income, that is only about $18,000 per year. At the same time we need to make sure that our aquifer is protected and it has become more complicated to put a well point in, especially by the owner’s lack of understanding the paperwork involved with DOE.

The solution:  Get more people licensed to install wells in this area!  It isn’t rocket science, nor is it drilling in solid rock.  There needs to be a test that can be taken that anyone who knows how to jet a well in can take for this unique area that would let them be able to install wells.  A plumber should be able to take a reasonable test, maybe online, and be granted a special permit to install well points in this area.  All the plumbers in this area used to install wells and they know how to do it.  To have made it impossible for a plumber to get licensed to install what they have been doing for decades is irrational at best.  These plumbers do not have time to be supervised by a licensed well driller for 600 hours, nor would any licensed well driller give his competitor a chance to get 600 hours.

Summary:  Please do not neglect our little corner of Washington state, and don’t be jealous of the ease of which we can get water.  The longer this issue continues, the larger the problem will become, until at some time there will be a number of people who simply can not afford to have good water, and they certainly will not be able to afford a peninsula wide water system!  It is best to get ahead of this issue and look good to the voters by taking preemptive steps.  With schools already complaining of lack of funding, I doubt that the state could afford an emergency requiring a complicated whole peninsula wide water system; especially with good water right under our feet!

Thanks in advance!

Robert A. Waltemate