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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Ask The Builder: You can drill a well almost anywhere, but beware local regulations (and pollutants)

This is a typical mobile well-drilling rig. The giant tower folds down parallel with the ground as it travels on roadways. (Tim Carter)
By Tim Carter Tribune Content Agency

Q. I live in a big city and am tired of the chlorinated and polluted water that flows through the city water mains. Is it possible to have my own well water like people out in the country have? How does water get into wells and what are the downsides to having your own well, if there are any? – Connie M. (location withheld)

A. I grew up in a big city in Ohio whose primary water supply was the Ohio River. Any number of chemical factories and giant sewage treatment plants were upstream from my city. The outflow from the sewage treatment plants is disgorged daily into the Ohio River and flowed toward the water plant intake pipes of my hometown.

Growing up, I had no idea about all of this and grew accustomed to the taste and smell of the chlorine in the water.

Ten years ago, I moved from that city to a rural part of New Hampshire where I have my own water well. Each house for miles around me has its own private water well. We have natural springs in several towns near me with water spouts and filling platforms. People bring giant 10-gallon containers and fill them with this natural, pure water. When I go back to my old city to visit friends, I take my own water with me to drink because the chlorinated water coming from the faucets is now revolting to me.

The simple answer to Connie’s question is yes. You probably can drill your own well on your property. You, of course, would have to contact your local building department to see if there are any regulations that must be followed. Some states and cities may still charge you for the water that’s pulled from your land, but that’s a debate for another day.

Water is under the surface of the ground in almost all locations on the planet Earth. My college degree is in geology, and I focused on hydrogeology, the study of groundwater. The bedrock that’s under the soil cover almost always has cracks and seams in it. Gravity pulls rainwater into this network of interconnected cracks.

It’s important to realize that some locations and valleys are filled with hundreds of feet of sandy gravel. These underground deposits are like giant underground lakes filled with delicious pure water – so pure that bottled water companies locate their plants above these gravel deposits and suck the water out of the ground and put it into bottles that you pay a hefty price for. A water-bottling plant is located just 15 miles from my current house and it extracts tens of thousands of gallons of water from the bedrock each day.

The issue is it’s not all unicorns and rainbows when it comes to drilled wells in a densely populated area. Industrial pollution from years before could have introduced toxic chemicals that still linger in the groundwater.

Nearby property owners may routinely treat their lawns with toxic weedkillers and unnatural chemicals to have the perfect green lawn. Common sense dictates that these chemicals may leach down into the groundwater. If this happens, your well water could be dangerous to drink.

Drilling a water well can also be expensive. Well drillers commonly charge by the foot, and they need to drill down far enough until the well produces a minimum of three to five gallons of water per minute is achieved. Ten or 15 gallons is preferred. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 80 gallons per minute.

The trouble is that in many locations well drilling is mostly chance. I’m reminded of the scenes in the famous 1948 Cary Grant movie “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” when the honest well driller couldn’t get enough water flow after drilling many many feet into the bedrock. He then moved his rig just a few feet away and hit a massive amount of water in no time at all. If you’re lucky and strike a plentiful supply of naturally pure water on your land, you’ll marvel at the taste of the clear elixir!

Q. Tim, I’m in a bind. I won’t name names to protect the guilty, but my gorgeous hardwood floor got scratched. Some of the scratches are just in the clear finish but are visible. Other scratches are deep and extend into the hardwood. I can’t fathom removing all the furniture to have the floors refinished. Can these scratches be repaired and if so, how? – Allen W., Wichita, Kanas

A. I’ve got good news for you. Scratches in hardwood floors can be repaired. You don’t have to refinish the floors to restore them to their former luster and shine.

There are numerous DIY methods for disguising shallow scratches that are in the clear coat finish. The method I’ve had the most success with is shoe polish of all things! You can get the paste shoe polish in different colors. One of the colors may be a perfect match or you may have to blend colors to get the exact color you need.

I use a cotton swab and just try to put a tiny spot of the polish on the scratch. Always start with a color that’s lighter than your current floor color. It’s easy to go darker, but tough to reverse the process. Once you get the perfect match, apply and allow the polish to dry. Use other cotton swabs to apply a protective coat of clear urethane over the shoe polish. Be sure to match the same sheen as you currently have on your floor.

Deep scratches require the services of a professional. In almost all cities and large towns, you can discover true artisans that do furniture repair. The top furniture sellers in a city or town use these people all the time. The craftsmen have a magic box they bring to your home with a tiny alcohol lamp, hard lacquers and other colored materials. They can fill the deep scratches in your hardwood floor, create matching grain and puff onto the floor an aerosol mist such that you’ll never know the floor was ever scratched.

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