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Water Quality/Well pump stuck


QUESTION: Hi! I have a deep well, 6" casing, 450' depth with absolute crud water. 18 ppm dissolved iron and manganese with a great deal of particulate iron and manganese, 180 grains hard. Major issues I've dealt with for years. The 2 hp submersible pump in the hole quit after 30 years and it's stuck. It's on 400' of schedule 80 pvc. I cannot get it out. I can use the boom of my bobcat to pull and push it about 10" up and down from a pitless puller I've installed in the top of it but that's it. In desperation, I attached a 3/16 aircraft cable to the "T" and the boom and snapped it like a toothpick. That's well over 5,000 lbs of tensile yield strength in the pull that failed. The numbers say that the entire downpipe assy should weigh a little less than 400 lbs. Piece of cake! My best guess is that accretions over the years have formed a pocket the pump is sitting in. What concentration of HCL should I be using to break up them up and how long should I leave it sit before I try to pull the pump again? Its a 6" hole 450' deep with a standing water level of about 430', PVC downpipe with cast iron couplers. I don't care about the pump, it's toast now and has to come out to get another one down in. HCL won't bother the PVC and I doubt serious damage would be done to cast iron couplers. I'm going to replace it all anyway but I need the pipe & couplers intact to pull the old one.

ANSWER: Hi John,
I've been in the water treatment business for almost 30 years and you have the worst water I have ever seen!  To say you have crud for water is the understatement of the century!!
Do you mean the PVC is connected with cast iron couplers???  Why??  HCL will eat up the cast iron unless it is inhibited.  I would recommend a solution of 10% inhibited HCl.  Let it sit for a couple of hours and then do the up and down pushing with the bobcat boom.  It may take several applications to do this but it should come loose.  I've never done this but on paper it should work.  The problem is there is so much Calcium and Magnesium in the water (b/c of the 180 gr. hardness) that this will act as a neutralizer to the HCL to some extent so you will have to overcome that before the HCL begins to eat away the deposits.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.  Also, let me know how this works out.

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QUESTION: Thanks Steve! This area is noted for some of the worse water ever, seriously. Manufacturers have been known to offer a beta test program for equipment from time to time. Goose Lake Village Illinois. I've been told by virtually every contractor that it's untreatable. What I found by years of experimentation is the iron is the worse part to deal with. A proportional peroxide injection Stenner peristaltic with an activated charcoal backwash filter (12") flushing every day takes out most of it, down to 5 or 8 PPM which a token 50K grain softener regenerating 3 time a week cleans up. It's impossible to ion exchange the hardness to get soft water without using salt by the truckload weekly and not have sea water at the taps which is just as bad as the iron. Don't even try to. It doesn't stain, but dissolves, discolors and corrodes everything including fabrics because of the abrasive residue left in from washing. Ask any sailor about that. "T" shirts and Jeans last about a year then fall apart literally. I've wanted to try a saltless softener but 1) they are expensive and 2) ANY iron AT ALL kills them dead. I still have a ppm or two remaining that occasional goes up or down a little. Ceramic seat fixtures throughout are mandatory as is a sacrificial yearly membrane 100 g/day RO through a calcium element to bump the PH out of acidic then into a 30 gallon bladder tank for potable useat the kitchen sink and bathroom. Anyway, cast iron couplers weren't my decision. The schedule 80 is in 21' threaded sections the driller put in. Come to think of it, I have never seen schedule 80 couplers anywhere...Perhaps that's why. Sounds as if it might be a good idea to buy some couplers and figure out how aggressive different concentrations would be on cast iron. I can let the well run for a month to flush it, I'm farmland rural. I want as low a PH as possible to act on the extreme minerals but still enough coupler remaining to support the pull. The numbers say the downpipe weighs about 300 lbs. I'm using 400+ as the think about design center number. As it sits, my best guess is I need to put well over 1000 lbs on it with the hydraulics just to get it to move at all. It's stuck. Like I said, I snapped a 3/16 aircraft cable rated 600 lbs working load and 4800 lbs tensile yield trying to force it past the squeeze. Right now, it isn't going anywhere short of military grade C4 motivation. As a side thought, the HCL bath wouldn't hurt. The well itself could probably use a crud flush.

I'll keep ya informed if you'd like.  Thanks again, John

ANSWER: Hi John,
Yes, please keep me informed.

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QUESTION: Ok, found out more info. What I thought was the pump moving was actually the schedule 80 PVC downpipe stretching!!!! I contacted the European think tank for all pvc products, not just pipe, and they said that any pvc will stretch about 2.5% over the length before it begins to show signs of tensile failure such as 'necking' and the like. Lot of variables, but 2.5% is a good number to use in the real world. The pump STILL hasn't moved and I'm going to be frozen up in another couple weeks with no water. I cannot find inhibited HCL and figured I didn't have anything to lose so I'm using regular muratic, standard well man practice out here.  

Let me qualify "the pump hasn't moved". Apparently there were torque suppressors installed. I have concrete like accretion consisting of silt, sand, slate, iron (lots of iron) and what's called 'black iron' out here binding it all together into a monolithic casing plug in need of a blasting agent. Black Iron is actually the smelly dropping and end products of iron bacteria eating iron. Same thing as "rusticles" on shipwrecks. When you have moist iron, you have iron bacteria period. They are totally harmless to humans and actually exist in the gut for the same purpose - to break down iron in food. Open your toilet tank lid and look at the water line for a black slime. That's it. In my case, it's on a massive scale on top of EACH torque suppressor and probably the pump once past them. The pump hasn't moved, the pipe has just stretched making it appear to move then spring back. I'm guessing the obstructions in the casing are torque suppressors but I don't know for sure. My eyeballs aren't very good on the end of a 50' long piece of 1/2 PVC as a ramrod and 'feeling stick'.      

Don't be overly concerned with the acid effects on the metal. 8 gallons, yes gallons, of acid in a 400' 6" hole (about 600 gallon reserve) over a period of about 2 weeks I've managed to clear off the suppressors at 30', 45' and now working on one at 55'. The end of the 1/2" is cut at about 30 degrees and you sort of auger and ramrod into the crud. Once the acid hits it and breaks down the organic emulsion, it chunks up fairly easily. I'm using a 1-1/4" PVC air lift to remove as much of the solids as possible. 160 lbs of air blast down a 1" black pipe and ball valve would be MUCH more effective in blowing it out the hole but I don't have it available.

Minerals aren't the problem. Cootie crap binding everything together is. This stuff is major nasty. Stinks like, well, s&^t and the smell lingers for days, the black doesn't wash off easily and stains everything. I've always wondered what that black film inside all of the pipes in the house during modification and repairs. I thought it was manganese oxide. Wrong! Draining down the water heater is always an ordeal with having to rod out the hose because of black crud. Now I know.

I kinda think what I'm going to be doing is to try to figure out how to shear off a 1" schedule 80 PVC pipe from the inside at about 300' and getting a 3/8 or 1/2 cable under the arrestors in the casing and pulling with the hydraulics until they say I give coming up in pieces. Any ideas about cutting a pipe underwater at 300' with 1" of ID clearance to get there?

This is a nightmare of epic proportions worthy of becoming a drunk over.It;s beginning to look like a problem without a cost effective solution. Punch another hole which I cannot afford.

Hi John,
You definitely have your hands full.  FYI - I read somewhere where you can use Cipro to inhibit HCL from attacking mild and carbon steels.  Yes, I said Cipro - the same antibiotic they were touting a few years ago when all the people were up in arms over the anthrax poisoning.  So you can put some down the water hole and some down  your hole in case a few cows get fresh!! :-)  Little humor - you probably need it after all you've been thru.  But it is true about it being a corrosion inhibitor.  It belongs to a class of organic chemicals called quinolones that have been used for pipeline corrosion inhibition.  Who knew??
Good luck and keep me posted,

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Steve Young


I will answer questions on residential water treatment, i.e. use of softeners, filters, reverse osmosis systems, disinfection, iron and/or sediment removal and other issues facing the homeowner. I have worked extensively with well water systems.


I have worked in the water treatment area for many years as a consultant and as a professional environmental engineer in the private industry sector. I have designed reverse osmosis, deionization, and water softening systems. I have also done work in water quality and stream and river remediation as it relates to the Clean Water Act.

I am currently serving as an Expert for Home Improvement, Travel (New Mexico) and Travel (North Carolina);

BS Environmental Eng.

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