Lone town water well stops pumping, repaired without service interruption

by Geoff Fox

The town’s lone working water well went down Sunday, November 24, after the pump inside shorted out, leaving the town with enough water for three days. Town crews replaced the pump and some pipe within two days.

According to Town Manager Joe Gilbert, he found out the following day when Water/Wastewater Superintendent Robert Munday told him there was a problem with the well and an electrician was on the way.

Munday advised Gilbert to wait for the electrical report, however Gilbert told him to also contact anyone who could repair a well since it was the only operating well in town.

It was found the issue was not electrical; it was the pump itself.

The pump in the well had been operating for around 15 years and it had just worn out, Gilbert said.

“We only have one pump. We only have one well, so that thing runs 24/7, for anywhere between 13, 15 years, and it just reached the end of its operational life and died,” Gilbert said.

The closet replacement for the pump model was found in California.

Gilbert said the part was overnighted from the West Coast to Hancock. At the same time, the well company started working on ripping out the old pump.

In the process, crews discovered that 11 of 14 older 20-foot pipes needed to be replaced due to rusting out, Gilbert said.

“In addition to the pump, we had to replace 11 sections of pipe,” he said. That new pipe was already on hand.

All that work was done on Monday, so when the pump arrived it could be installed.

The pump, Gilbert said, arrived around 1:30 p.m. and by 7 p.m. Tuesday, “everything was up and running again.”

Gilbert didn’t have a cost yet for the water system repair as he hadn’t seen a bill from the company.

At the consumption rate the town had at the time, Gilbert estimated there was about two more days worth of water in the towers.

There was about 14 feet of water in one of the towers and another 25 to 30 feet in the other, which would have been good for “another day or two.”

Residents were notified of the well being down via social media and the town’s website. They were asked to conserve water to extend the town’s water supplies during the repair.

Second well will be dug

A second town well has been out of service for more than a year. That pump will not be repaired, Gilbert said. A new well will be dug.

“That one is beyond repair,” he said.

The problem well is 525 feet deep with what Gilbert described as a lot of “broken stuff” at the bottom from the last contractor.

Right now, Gilbert has two RFP, or request for proposals, out for a new well.

Once a contract is accepted, there are a number of licensing hoops a contractor would have to go through in the state of Maryland before drilling a new well.

Gilbert said the contractor would have to submit paperwork to the Washington County Department of Health. They’d also need an acquisition permit since the town would be acquiring water, so that would come from the Maryland Department of the Environment. Two more permits would have to come from the state.

Once all that is taken care of, then drilling can begin for the new well.

“It’s a weird place because the first well lasted for 13 years before it crapped out on us. But because it did, it lends a sense of urgency to the second well,” he said.

Gilbert said he is doing a comprehensive grant through the federal government for a water system to include new water mains, lines, and service lines.

There was some thought of including the new well in the grant, but the town won’t wait for that to happen before proceeding with well construction.

“Unfortunately, it looks like the town will just have to eat whatever cost that is,” Gilbert said.