Part Thirty Seven – A Long Tale About Water (And Life…..)

This thirty seventh entry was published originally by JSHarris on the 9th August 2015 and received 2,583 views on the closed forum


I know I’ve not been diligent in updating this blog, but it all comes down to one thing, WATER. The borehole saga is recorded elsewhere in the blog, but suffice to say that we have had massive ongoing water problems since, with many solutions being recommended and tried, most failing and many involving encounters with supposed experts who quite clearly were anything but. Anyway, this entry will be updated over the next week or so, as I hopefully work towards a solution that works. I’ve lost count of the number of variations on filtration etc we have tried, all failed to some degree; either in that they just didn’t work at all, or that they were too cumbersome, noisy etc to be a practical solution for us.

The tale of the drilling of the borehole has been recounted here, but I was overly generous and less critical than I should have been about the drillers. Unprofessional is the best term I could use, there are other terms like incompetent that I could use, but will let you all draw your own conclusions. Suffice to say I’m not a happy bunny, and if some have noted me being a little terse on the forum it’s largely because the stress of dealing with the water problems seemed impossibly great at times. It’s fair to say now, looking back over the worst periods, that there were days when I went over the new build, sat in a folding chair all day and was simply incapable of doing anything constructive, I’ve no doubt, now, that had I seen a doctor during those few months I may well have been assessed as clinically depressed, as there were times where life just didn’t seem worth the hassle any more. For someone who’s never been depressed, and who’s always been a “glass half full” type of person, this was a shock to the system. It wasn’t helped by a host of other personal stuff that was generally making life tougher than it needed to be, but some may be pleased to know that the bag of illicitly purchased tranquillisers (more than enough to kill a moderately sized elephant) have been flushed down the loo, and I’m working towards getting things back together. I’m treating it as Churchill did, and giving in to the “Black Dog” days by having a reserve of simple, stress free tasks that only get down when I feels things are getting too much.

I doubt I’m alone in getting feelings like this. I recall a chap on another forum who reached a similar desperate point, primarily due to the stress of self-building. I’d suggest that all those who read this and who are self-building recognise that depression is a serious risk in the process, and watch for the early signs of it and get help. taking a handful of various painkillers every evening and drinking at least one bottle of wine on your own in an hour or so IS NOT safe or normal behaviour. I was lucky, in that, although someone who should have seen the signs didn’t until the very last minute, for very good reasons, the cause finally penetrated my consciousness when the topic of Council Tax came up, and I then looked back at how bizarre my behaviour had become over the months before.

Anyway, this is the saga of getting drinking water from a borehole, starting out from my last blog entry on the borehole in part thirty one of this blog, and adding that following that tale the drillers came out with a humongous compressor (as in far, far, bigger than the sort used to run road drills, like it was around 6ft high and wide and maybe ten feet long), just like this one, in fact:

They also brought out a load of screw together pipes of around 1″ diameter and a domestic size (i.e. maybe 8mm bore) plastic air hose. They bent the air hose up and back around the lower entrance to the pipe and started screwing lengths of pipe together and lowering them down the well (I’ll use well rather than borehole from now on as it’s what the Americans call these things and the Americans seem to be the masters of all things related to home wells). As they went they taped the plastic air hose to the 1″ pipe and carried up going until they hit the “bottom” of the well.  The well a spec is 65m drilled and lined, with 12m of slotted liner from the base to 53m, but the invoiced and paid for well was actually 70m drilled and lined, so a fair bit more.

Now, as you can read in previous comments and entries here, all along I’ve never been able to get anything past the 53m to 54m depth mark, it’s as if I hit the solid bottom of the well. I first noticed this when I lowered the pump from it’s original depth of 45m and found it wouldn’t do further down than about 53 to 54m before hitting something solid. The drilling company is adamant that they lined the well to 65m (but that didn’t stop them billing me for having lined it to 70m!), and their belief was that compacted sand had built up and filled the lower part of the well. I didn’t note in that long running borehole thread the failure of the drilling company to do anything useful, primarily because I didn’t want to be critical. Suffice to say they got their contraption down to 53m or so and no matter what couldn’t suck up any sand. I’ll be brutally honest here and say they whole set up they had for airlifting this well was crap, they didn’t know what they were doing and after three hours of nothing happening in terms of getting sand out of the well a I rang the company boss and told him to get his guys off site, as they weren’t doing anything useful, and I pointed out that I wasn’t paying the full bill either (I ended up paying £350), for no useful work done at all, and an oil stain left of the drive that took a lot of cleaning).

In the meantime I found a work around, described in that thread. I found that if I pumped slowly from the well, with the pump lifted into clear water at 25m down (the resting water level is around 4m down usually) the water was always clear and sand free. I put together a system with another small shed containing a 650 litre storage tank and a float valve, with a take off to another pump about 1/3rd of the way up from the bottom (to avoid drawing possibly cloudy water from the bottom of the tank. The float valve controlled the down-hole well pump and fed water via a home made aerator venturi and flow restrictor at around 10 litres/minute to the storage tank. Another 750W pump set drew water from that 650 litre tank and fed it to a 300 litre pressure vessel (charged to 5 bar when full) and then to an iron and hydrogen sulphide filter and then to a 5µ filter and a UV steriliser. I needed this high flow second system, as the backwash requirement for the iron and hydrogen sulphide filter is 28 litres/minute, more than I could draw from the well pump without drawing up very fine sand.

Although this worked, the system was complicated and a nuisance. I didn’t really have room for the 650 litre tank, it was in the way. The 750W pump was noisy when running, and despite soundproofing I was concerned that the backwash cycles (which are pre-programmed for 2am every second night) might be a nuisance. Ideally I wanted a simple system, with just one pump that was near-silent (you cannot hear the well pump at all, even with your ear next to the well cover). My problem was that I needed to be able to supply 28 litres/minute of water to the filter for backwash and there may well have been times when the house might need this sort of flow rate for short periods of time. After a lot of head scratching I found that I could “just” squeeze another 300 litre pressure tank into the treatment shed (things are getting tight in there!) and having sat and done some stop-watched timings of filter backwash cycles (luckily you can force a backwash cycle, so at least I didn’t have to stay up to 2 am to do the tests) I found that the filter drew around 27 litres/minute for the first 8 minutes of the backwash cycle, then switched to a draw-down mode where it used an internal venturi pump to suck all the water out of the filter tank and media for 15 minutes, at just 6 litres/minute and then refilled the filter ready for use (no flow or time limit of this, as the backwash cycle had done it’s stuff). The filter manufacturer reckoned the filter needed at least 2 to 2.5 bar to backwash properly, and I was feeding it with water at 5 bar initially, which was doing a really good job of lifting the filter bed and loosening up anything caught in it. As the well pump turned on at 4 bar, and started contributing around 10 litres/minute from then on, it was clear that the 225 litres of water stored at 5 bar, plus the 10 litres a minute from 4 bar down, would be plenty to complete the backwash cycle. In fact after I invested in the extra tank and plumbed it in I found that the pressure never dropped below 3.5 bar and would start to very slowly increase during the 15 minute draw-down part of the cycle, so I could use a single pump with a flow limiter and a big enough total pressure vessel storage to do the job OK.

I ran the system like this, with the 650 litre tank disconnected, even doing a 41 minute continuous shower test the other week, just to prove that it all worked. 41 minutes because that was as long as I could draw hot water from the thermal store before the hot water temperature started to drop, with the electric booster heater turned off, as this was intended to be a tough test. With the booster heater on I could probably have kept the shower going at the right hot temperature for another 20 minutes or so, as there was loads of water available from the pressure tanks.

As always, one problem is solved and another rears it’s ugly head, plus I had a water system that was, by now, looking decidedly Heath Robinson, where bit of old experiments were still hanging around and pipe runs were, to say the least, untidy. This isn’t my untidiness, but is an example of how bad things were (this is how the drillers left the well head (less the pressure gauge that got ruined, along with a ruined pressure vessel and a ruined pressure switch that were on that tee and ended up underwater for a few weeks:

As you can see, this is a mess, with pipes under strain, no effective anti-contamination well head fitting (in fact gaping holes in an ill fitting plastic cap) and generally poor workmanship. There was also a surplus pipe, as one of those two pipes goes to a garden tap and the garden taps are now going to be fed from treated (but not sterilised) water.

Another problem that came back was that the water started to smell again. Not bad, but just slightly sulphurous. This was noticeable during the long shower test, because hot water makes the smell more pronounced. The old aeration venturi worked very well at getting the hydrogen sulphide out, and I’d added to its effectiveness with my home made ozone generator that injected a lot of ozone gas into the aerator, both powerfully oxidising anything in the water and acting as an additional steriliser.

With the help from some American professional well drillers (a real breath of fresh air compared to all the UK based companies I approached, excepting one, who deserve a mention for being very good indeed, GAPS Water up in Lancashire) I finally started sorting out what needed to be done. I was 90% of the way there with the filtration and pressure tanks and with needing a flow limiting valve (these are common in the US, they use them for EXACTLY this sort of sand problem all the time, usually made by a company called Dole). I wanted to get back to aerating and injecting ozone to the water, and as I needed a 3.2mm restricting orifice at the well head to keep the flow rate down, it made sense (at least to me) to use that as an air injection system. You can (if you live in the US) buy an off-the shelf air injector, with a port to accept an ozone generator pipe, made by a company called Well Water products (see here: http://www.wellwater…Micronizer.html ). Of course, getting one here in the UK is slow and expensive, so I looked at the problem, worked out that the physics was simple (just a practical application of Bernoulli’s theorem) and so I made a combined flow restrictor and ozone injector.

Now there is a problem with the US made Micronizer, not a serious one, but one that annoyed me. It stops working when the pressure across the venturi drops below that needed to allow air at atmospheric pressure to enter the injection port. You can also buy air injection systems in the US, as an alternative to the Micronizer and similar systems, that use a pump operated either whenever the well pump runs or via a flow switch. You can also buy off-the-shelf ozone injectors, but again they are expensive when imported here in the UK. However, having tasted pure water that had been treated with ozone I really wanted to have such a system if I could.

I set about re-making my ozone generator, so that the ozone corona discharge plates were inside a standard water housing (just because I had one spare, they are made of plastic and have the right sort of connections to allow them to handle air instead of water). My first experiment was to build a unit:

Air flows in via the grey PVC pipes, at low pressure from a small cooling fan in the metal electronics box that very slightly pressurises the filter casing.


Ozone is generated via the corona discharge plates visible above inside the housing. It does drift slowly from the 8mm pipe outlet port that’s visible, under the very slight pressure of the cooling fan, but not at any significant pressure. I gave the system a long-term test and nothing overheated and all worked well, but I had to do this outside, as this unit generates 7g of ozone per hour, which is, I have found, a heck of a lot of ozone. One useful property of ozone is that is is extremely good at getting rid of nasty smells (in my case the sulphur smell in the water). Last Tuesday, whilst SWMBO was out at Pilates, I made myself a lovely hot chilli. Normally this would attract more than a little critical comment, about the residual smell in the kitchen, and some of the rest of the house. I decided it would make a very good indoor test for the ozone generator. I ran the ozone generator in the kitchen whilst cooking the chilli and for a while after I’d done the washing up. The ozone smell in the kitchen got to be a bit strong, so I opened the doors in the house and let ozone flow where it wanted, assuming it would flow pretty much wherever the chilli smells had gone.

As some may know, when you’ve just eaten a hot chilli the smell of chilli is pretty much undetectable to you, but not, perhaps, to others. Ten minutes before SWMBO was due home I turned off the ozone generator and waited to see what her reaction would be on her return. Nothing, but rather than risk asking the question, I waited a day or two and demonstrated the ozone generator, mentioning that I’d tested it a couple of days before, and had she noticed the chilli smell? Apparently she’d had no idea I’d cooked a chilli! Clearly the ozone generator worked OK, so just needed engineering into the system.

To get the ozone into the venturi under the worst case pressure conditions I need around 3 to 4 bar of pressure. The original idea was to use a blow-through system, as these filter housings are OK for around 10 bar. I could pump air at 3 or 4 bar from a small compressor in one side and draw off pressurised ozone at the other port. Sadly this doesn’t work. As soon as you get the pressure in the ozone generator up to about 2 bar the corona discharge stops and no ozone is produced, To work, the ozone generator needs to be at a low pressure, not much over atmospheric. This meant fitting the ozone generator on the intake side of the compressor and sucking it through, then compressing it and blowing it into the venturi. The snag with this is that ozone is a phenomenally good oxidising agent and will oxidise anything, just about, Aluminium, some plastics, stainless steel and a few other materials are OK, though.

So, I bought a cheap airbrush compressor from ebay, hoping it would have an intake port. Sadly it didn’t, and the intake was via the crankcase, with a stainless flap valve in the piston. The good news was that the piston seal was PTFE and all the internals were anodised aluminium or stainless, with the exception of the big end bearing. I made up an adapter to sort of restrict flow to the lower part of the crankcase and fitted an intake fitting at the top, with an internal aluminium deflector p[late to direct the ozone up to the underside of the piston. It’s experimental, so I’m still searching for a pump made from the right materials with an intake valve, rather than one of the valve in piston types.

Anyway, all this enthusiasm got me working on the water system again, and improving all the other stuff. The first thing was to sort the rubbish and unsanitary well head. I found a 125mm stub flange, machined up a stainless steel plate, drilled it for six 6mm stainless screws and tapped the thick PVC flange to take these screws. That’s given me a tidier looking well head, like this:

The black acetal part is my home made restrictor/venturi, that allows ozone and air to be injected right at the well head, so there is plenty of pipe length to give a decent reaction time. There will be a length of 8mm LLPDE pipe run up inside the redundant outside tap MDPE pipe from the compressor in the treatment plant shed, that will inject high pressure air and ozone in via the small ball valve by the pressure gauge. There is also a reaction vessel, but I’ll explain more about that in an update to this post, as I haven’t yet finished building it and don’t have any photos yet. It uses a standard “1054” composite pressure vessel (from GAPS Water) and this is a diagram of how it looks, with an internal air pocket regulated by the automatic air vent and the long “dip” pipe:

Aerated air enters via the top screen and the water falls to the bottom. As the pressure rises the water level compresses the air, forcing more air and ozone from the air space to be dissolved into the water in the tank and so reacting with anything in the water than is susceptible to oxidation (iron, manganese, hydrogen sulphide and most dangerous pathogens). When the water reaches the “dip” pipe level the automatic float air vent closes, leaving a smaller air space under a pressure of up to 5 bar.

I’ll expand on the way this works in an edit to this blog entry once I have that part of the system installed.

The final part of this entry (for the time being) takes us back to the mystery of the well being seemingly far shallower than the specification. As we paid for the well by the metre, being “short-changed” by a few metres bothers me, as does some of the advice we received. First, I’ll mention the pump. We chose a Grundfos SQ1-65 pump, for several reasons. Firstly, Grundfos have a good reputation for quality, and this isn’t a component you want to have to replace frequently. Secondly, the SQ1-65 has a maximum head capability of around 9 bar, plenty in excess of our 5 bar requirement, even allowing for around half a bar of head loss from the rest water level and the pipework. It also had a pump curve that looked as if it could deliver a greater volume of water than we would ever need, and it was specifically designed to work with sandy water, being advertised as being resistant to sand damage by using ceramic impellers and floating bearings and had dry running protection. The downside was the cost, these things are the Rolls-Royce of submersible pumps, and this pump was over £600 without VAT.

I was alerted to the need for me to do something to tidy up the “temporary” water system last week, when the pump stopped being able to pump to just over 5 bar (I’d been running the system at around 5.2 bar to give a bit of leeway). I dead-headed the pump with a blanking plug a gauge and it wouldn’t pump over 5.2 bar, well below spec. This made me wonder about all that sand we’d pumped having damaged the pump, so I recalled an email exchange with the drillers:

My question emailed to driller: “I’m guessing that there is still a great deal of fine black clay in and around the hole, and am more than happy to carry on flushing if it makes sense, especially as the water runs clear for the first few seconds after we turn the water on (presumably because the sediment has settled to the bottom of the pipe), then there is a big black spurt (presumably the settled out clay at the bottom of the pipe coming up), followed by grey looking water for the next few hours of pumping.

My questions are, how long would you think it should take to flush out a hole of this depth, and do you think it’s OK to carry on trying to flush it out with the standard pump we have?”

Drillers reply: “You are exactly correct in your diagnosis and I would recommend that you flush the borehole for as long as possible. We would normally recommend that you set it to pump to waste and run it constantly for a couple of weeks, as this will allow as much water to purge through the borehole as possible.”

My view is that this advice may well have buggered up the pump, because I did as he instructed and pumped it for two weeks continuously. I think it’s a reasonable supposition that the pump impellers are now worn, so it won’t now reach the specified pressure. I’ve written to the drillers asking for their advice as to the warranty, especially as they supplied and fitted the pump and gave the above advice.

In the meantime I’ve bought a slightly better spec pump direct from Poland, for the princely sum of around £130. I’ve tested it and it works a treat, massively more capacity and pressure than the Grundfos, which again leads me to believe the Grundfos has been badly damaged internally.

I’m now deeply suspicious that this company never ever drilled and lined this hole to 70m, as claimed. Following some brilliant advice and moral support from some American drillers, I air lifted the hole this week, using the proper way they do this is the US. Suspecting hard packed sand (based in the advice from the UK drillers) I made up this air lift pipe end, using 28mm copper pipe and a brazed in 8mm air feed U bend:

I bought a new 100m roll of 25mm MDPE pipe and a 100m roll of food grade air hose, plus a few fittings to I could connect the air hose to the lifter 8mm pipe and the MDPE to the 28mm copper “sabre point”. I had to slightly round off the sharp point on the copper pipe, as it was sharp enough original to catch on the joints inside the well liner.

I stuffed this down the hole (having pulled out the pump) and sure enough, hit the solid obstruction at around the 53 to 55m depth. I turned on the air (from my little baby 1.5hp Clarke compressor) and immediately started sucking up sand:

After a few minutes, though, the pipe wouldn’t go down any further and the water started to run clearer:

The pipe wasn’t going down at all, but felt like it was against something solid. The next day I decided to add a 22mm copper pipe extension, just in the 28mm was too big to penetrate the sand, so I made this gadget:

Allowing for the extra length of copper the thing still hit bottom at the same depth. One of the US guys suggested I fit a valve to the end of the outlet MDPE and give the well a “blow job” (in the last photo you can just make out the 25mm ball valve on the end of the MDPE, after I’d added the clear section of PVC with a bend into a bucket to better inspect what was coming out).

Basically a “blow job” means turning the whole well liner into a big air lifter. The air is injected out the end of the copper pipe ( as the normal lifter outlet pipe if blocked with the shut off valve) and the aggressive pumping of compressed air straight at the base of the well disturbs everything and the bubbles rising pump a LOT of water our of the liner (and I mean a lot, as in around 10 to 20 litres per second when it gets going!). Here’s a shot of my well being blown with a small amount of compressed air from my small compressor, before the flow rate got too much for me to risk standing there with a camera.

I judged the flow rate by how very quickly the 450mm inspection pit filled with water. It was filled to overflowing (despite the 100mm drain at the base) within 6 or 7 seconds, and as you can see there was only a small amount of fine sand coming up. The damned pipe STILL wouldn’t go down any deeper!

OK, so now I’m convinced that the well is shallower than I paid for and even if it does now work I am really, really angry about being given poor advice, possibly written off a £600 plus pump, having wasted months and hundreds of hours work, all because some drillers don’t seem to have done the job they said they had (and it’s not just this driller, I had three others involved and they were all pretty damned ignorant (and one was downright rude, into the bargain). I need to PROVE what’s at the bottom of this hole and how far down it is.

First off I went around looking through sheds, the lofts, old boxes, you name it, looking for things to use. I had an old rear view camera that I had fitted to a car years ago, and that still worked OK, so that was a start, but it wasn’t waterproof, at least not to the 50 to 60m immersion depth needed. Around 30 years ago I salvaged some old cameras taken off a deep diving submersible (rated to 5000ft depth, IIRC). The cameras themselves were dead, but the very thick machined alloy housings plus the underwater connectors and the 1/2″ thick plexiglass front lens, with O rings etc, were all OK. I also found a 60m length of underwater cable with a moulded on underwater connector that fitted the back of one of the camera housings. This had three screened cables (OK for video) and three plain insulated wire cores, together with a steel load wire running up the centre.

I needed some lights, but when I was making an LED front light for my bicycle years ago I remembered having to buy too many very bright white LEDs, and I had an offcut of 1″ thick Tufnol board in a workshop, so an hour or so on the lathe later and I had a ring that was a very tight push-fit over the front of the camera housing. I stuck this in the milling machine and drilled 12 holes around the outside edge, equally spaced at 30 deg. I wired in the LEDs, in groups of three with their own resistor, so all 12 would run OK from 12V, as the camera runs on 12V, and it made sense to have the whole thing run of an old battery. I wrapped a bit of tape around the ring and poured epoxy resin around the back to cast all the LEDs in place and make the whole light ring waterproof.

I also knocked up an alloy frame to take an old plastic cable drum, so I would wind and unwind the cable easily (I’m rapidly learning that one of the really good skills to have when dealing with wells is to be able to handle very long lengths of cable and pipe!).

Here are some shots so far of the jury rig I’ve put together. The only thing I had to buy (not in the photos) was a small box from the local computer store that will convert video to USB and allow me to use my laptop to both watch the video and record it, depending on what I find there may well be legal action hinging on this, as I’ve just about had enough with the guys I’ve been dealing with over this well.

First off, this is the complete rig, less the laptop, the old battery for 12V and the little box that connects the video to the laptop USB port:

The camera is over on the left and red and black 12V power cable (with croc clips to connect to the battery) and the video lead and Phono plug are tucked away inside the plastic cable drum.

This is the camera housing, with the added light ring at the left and the underwater cable connector at the right:

Not too pretty but it seems to work OK when tested, and as long as I get one good video from it it’s done the job as far as I’m concerned.

Next up, a front view of the camera:

The camera is really tiny compared to the original 1970’s technology tube camera that went into this housing, so is packed out and held in place with some old pipe insulation. I scratched the plexiglass front accidentally, but thankfully none of the scratches are through the tiny area where the lens is looking out. You can see the ring of bright white LEDs around the edge and some of the epoxy that’s leaked through, but the light they give off seems plenty bright enough and the camera seem to work find in total darkness with just these LEDs, so I guess they’ll do the job. I’m just hoping all the seals are OK, I used silicone grease, fitted new O rings and tightened the lens and the connector up really tight, so fingers crossed it won’t leak. The same goes for my cable splice, I split the outer cable sheath to get at the cores needed to draw 12V out for the LEDs and used a hot melt underwater cable splice kit and I’ve never had a problem using these hot melt heat shrink underwater connections before, in fact I prefer them to the cast resin box ones, mainly because they are quicker to make.

Here’s a final view of the rig, waiting to get loaded in my car and taken over to the new house to check out the well tomorrow:

More should follow tomorrow, provided the weather cooperates and I can get my old laptop to run the video capture and record software. I may even be able to post a really exciting view of the descent to the depths………………………


OK, This is just a quick edit to update the story of the borehole camera.

The first thing to say is thanks very much for all the kind words, they are much appreciated. Now on to the more interesting stuff!

The first thing to report is that the camera works!!! I have good video right down to the start of some minor borehole liner distortion (I think), where the camera then jams in the liner. I will try and mod the light ring on the camera tonight so that it is much slimmer, as I am within around 4 or 5 metres of the hard blockage and can’t see it. If the camera was just a bit slimmer (with the lighting ring it’s only 5mm smaller in diameter than the 115mm bore of the liner) then it would get down lower, I’m sure. The camera casing is 84mm in diameter, and could be reduced to about 80mm easily by turning down the outer part of the front lens holder and I should be able to make a light ring up that will fit in front of, and inset to, the lens section, so hardly increasing the core diameter of the camera at all. I’ll cut down to 8 LEDs too, as 12 is overkill.

One problem with the narrow gap, just 2.5mm all around, between the camera lighting ring and the liner is that the camera descends very, very slowly, as it’s like a piston in a cylinder and has to displace all the water in front of it through the 2.5mm gap around the side as it sinks.

I need to do a lot of very, very boring video editing and checking, but here’s a couple of stills to give an idea (I can’t upload more as I’m on a damp string connection at the new house!):

This is around 41m down (water’s still clear) at the joint with the first section of slotted liner:

This is a metre or so lower, inside the slotted liner (you can see the 0.5mm wide slots in the sides if you look carefully)

Not long after this the camera passes the second slotted liner section joint OK and then gets stuck at about 49m down, probably because the liner has deformed:

Infuriatingly it’s not clear enough to see what the problem is, but it’s either that the liner had collapsed or something else has happened. I’m puzzled, because I thought that the slotted liner sections ran up for 12m from the bottom of the hole (i.e. 4 off, 3m lengths, starting at 70m down. That would make the top of the first slotted liner section around 58m down, yet I definitely hit the top of the first slotted liner section a few metres above that, at about 41m down. That would tally with the bottom of the borehole being at around 53m, as with four 3m sections of slotted liner, starting at 41m the base would be at 53m.

Hopefully I shall be able to get the slimmed down camera further into the hole tomorrow, as I’m deeply suspicious that I’ve been short changed on this and the hole has only been lined down to 53m, not 70m as paid for. That’s the best part of a couple of grand of overcharging if that’s the case.

The good news is that the water is clear. The orange staining is from oxidation, where I’ve shock chlorinated the well to kill bacteria and oxidised the ferrous iron in the water to ferric iron, leaving loads of “rust” stains everywhere. Looks pretty clean overall though, with little sign of muck in it.


The modified camera worked brilliantly and cleared the tiny obstruction part way down section two of the slotted liner easily, and it also dropped a heck of a lot faster, being only 84mm diameter rather than 110mm diameter.

The first point is that the drilling company have persistently misled me. I don’t know the reason why, but suspect it may have been away to claw back some costs from their own problems with equipment etc when doing this job, or that may just me being overly suspicious.

This is the killer photo, though:

This is the end cap screwed neatly on to the bottom of the fourth 3m section of slotted liner at a depth of exactly 53m below the surface. I double checked the depth by letting the camera rest on the bottom, then pulling it back to just take the cable weight (it’s dead easy to feel). I had the cable marked with 1m white tape markers for the last ten metres, so I could get a good measurement. I can double check by counting the number of liner joints, too, as each liner section is 3m.

I shall edit and upload the video to YouTube tonight, leaving out the name of the drilling company for now. Best give them a chance to look at it and come up with an offer of reparation before I name and shame them.

The great news is that we have a pretty good borehole, albeit one where we need to limit water flow rate to under 10litres/minute to prevent very fine sand being drawn in. I was particularly pleased to see that my efforts at airlifting and cleaning the hole last week look to have done a great job, with very little sediment at all (I suspect that ferric oxide on the bottom cap is a hard layer).

This is a photo of the modified, slimmer, camera I made up to get down to the bottom:


This is really very, very, boring, but it is the YouTube video of the camera survey done yesterday. Note that at the start, the LED lights around the camera shine off the water surface, which is 4m down, so produce an odd looking effect. It also takes a few metres for the air to clear from in front of the camera lens and for the light levels to stabilise. From them on what you’re mainly seeing is the rust stained blue plastic liner, with the joints every 3m being clearly visible, as there is a layer of ferric oxide that shines out from each one. I ended this video clip just before the camera blacks out as it hits the end cap, really to make it easier to just pause and see that it really is the end cap screwed on to the last slotted liner section.

Here’s the YouTube link:….h?v=xmxXTku9_90

I’ve written a lengthy letter to the drilling company, making it clear that I would prefer them to come up with an offer of reparation, but also making if very clear that if they don’t, then I won’t hesitate to take them to court. We shall wait and see!


ProDave 09 Aug 2015 07:55 PM:

 That’s a really great and detailed blog entry.

 Firstly the bit about depression. I think you are right, at some stage most builds are likely to go through that. In our case, although technically the build is progressing well, albeit a bit slower than I would like, our big problem is no interest in any buyer for the old house. That could leave us at some point having to mothball the new build and just wait. So both of us are a bit “edgy” about that aspect of it. (there’s also another property transaction related but I won’t give any details just yet)

 Re the bore hole. It might interest you that one small job I did about 30 years ago was to build some electronics for a borehole camera. This was 1980’s technology and a film camera. Basically the whole assembly was about the size of a borehole pump.

 The thing was lowered down with a cover closed, to keep the lense clean. It was a camera pointing downwards onto a conical mirror so it photographed the perimeter of the well liner.


So the electronics had a sensor to detect a “bump” when it hit the bottom. At that point it fired a solenoid to open the cover, then triggered the (film) camera to take pictures at timed intervals as the camera was pulled back up the well.

 It was all battery powered so no cables, just this contraption on the end of a rope.


 recoveringacademic 09 Aug 2015 08:37 PM:

 Bloody Hell. I’ll stop moaning about our Great Crested Newts.


 jsharris 09 Aug 2015 08:53 PM:

 First off the “creeping depression” message is real and insidious. Trust me, you will pretend for ages that things are OK, and you can deal with it, long after you are way out of your depth when it come to handling it or even recognising it, on your own. I probably came with a few days of crawling off somewhere and downing 250 illicitly purchased Benzodiazepines. It really was only a combination of luck and circumstance that made me realise what what was going on, as bizarrely you don’t see what’s happening.



09 Aug 2015 08:58 PM:

Jeremy, your knowledge astounds me. Although I am not having a borehole I love the inventive attitude you show to problems. With regard depression my missus told me recently she thought I was depressed and it astounded me and we have not even started the build yet but to be fair the planners are blocking our every move, my house sale so far has taken over a year ( hopefully completed in a few weeks) and the summer is passing me by with no work on site. So she might be right!!! Your build and others on this site and the knowledge I gain keeps me going.


 jsharris 09 Aug 2015 09:43 PM:

 This may sound alarmist, but please take any indication of depression seriously. I’m an independent person, inventive and self-reliant. Put me in a desert and I would probably invent ways to survive. I’m also logical so finding ways of buying large quantities of tranquillizers illicitly via the internet (very cheaply) didn’t seem an odd thing to do, either.

 I planned things coldly and logically, and single mindedly. Somehow I separated this off from normal life and had rationalised it as being something entirely normal. It was very much like the routine I got into when coming home from “work”. I’d sort out dinner, and the next action would be to grab a wine glass, a couple of paracetamol and a couple of ibuprofen. The glass of wine was just to wash down the painkillers, the painkillers were just to numb the aches and pains from the day, to be expected if you’re over 60. Once the bottle of wine was open it seemed a waste not to finish it.

 SWMBO had her own issues, and has been finding it hard to deal with the grief of losing her father, so has been pretty inwardly focussed for the past couple of years, plus there is the added baggage than he and I were both pilots, who flew together a fair bit, something she always resented for some reason.

 Sometimes it takes big shock to start putting things right. The accidental discovery of my big stash of tranquillisers yesterday morning was the trigger that brought things into perspective. Maybe that was luck, perhaps it was karma or those who have some faith maybe put it down to the actions of some deity. I’m going to reserve judgement until my final moments as to which it may be.


 Alphonsox 09 Aug 2015 10:24 PM:

 Gulp – that is a seriously worrying story. As “an independent person, inventive and self-reliant” you are not going to do something really stupid and convince yourself that you have everything under control are you ? Please go and see a medical professional or two and get some help with this.



09 Aug 2015 10:27 PM:

 Sir, I doff my cap to you. Your ingenuity knows no bounds, and I’m sure that your candid account of the effects of prolonged stress will help as many forum members as your technical insights.



 jsharris 10 Aug 2015 07:05 AM :

 “Alphonsox, on 09 August 2015 – 10:24 PM:, said:

Gulp – that is a seriously worrying story. As “an independent person, inventive and self-reliant” you are not going to do something really stupid and convince yourself that you have everything under control are you ? Please go and see a medical professional or two and get some help with this.”

 There’s a strange logic to it, odd as it may seem. It does now seem stupid, when the flaws have been pointed out, but I didn’t see the flaws in my thinking.

 It’s very hard to explain, but it is possible to convince yourself you are doing something entirely logical and that will end your life, and that itself is logically for the best. I think you have to experience it to understand how such a train of thinking can occur, and I suspect it may well be a reason why there are quite a lot of inexplicable suicides.

 One positive effect, and the reason I’ve chosen to go public here with it, is that once you realise that your train of thought is deeply flawed, it suddenly looks crazy, just as any other rational person viewing this from outside would think upon reading this. It is insidious, though, and I found it crept up on me with surprising ease, hence the warning.


 oranjeboom 10 Aug 2015 08:08 AM :

 Jeremy ‘Jacques Cousteau’ Harris!! Your exploits are impressive, though the circumstances are very unfortunate! Be good if you find a big gold nugget down there as some form of compensation for all the hours you have invested into this saga!

 And congrats for ‘coming out’.

 I look forward to your exploration report later on!


 declan52 10 Aug 2015 09:02 AM :

 When you are lowering the camera down take a close look at the joins in the perforated pipe. Might be a damaged section letting more sand in.

You are a cross between the A team and mcguyver. Lock you in a shed with a few bits and bobs and god knows what you will make.

 I fully agree with you about depression doing a self build. The stress of doing a self build can quite easily creep up and get on top of you if you are not careful.


 wmacleod 10 Aug 2015 09:03 AM :

 Hi Jeremy, your blog has always been open & honest about issues self builders face and this one in particular is an issue that way too many of us would avoid. Glad the tranquillizers are gone. The simple, manual tasks that don’t require much in the way of thinking, just a bit of sweat are indeed helpful, especially if they allow you to tick off another box in the way of progress in your build – an hour or two with a pick & spade can be very therapeutic in a way pills from a doc can never be. Like Churchill and his bricklaying etc as you say.


 joe90 10 Aug 2015 09:15 AM :

 Jeremy, it’s just occurred to me that you flushed your tabs down the loo and you have a treatment plant. Have the ducks become more chilled???

 Seriously though my wife is a councillor and she understands that I am very frustrated with the build and its lack of movement. I cared for my late wife for many years whilst she was dying of cancer and also brought up my two teenage children at the same time, she tells me does not know how I coped, but you do, you just get on with it. This build is my salvation as its a lifetime goal and I finally have the chance to do it, but the frustration at the moment is immense. As I said, learning from you all on this forum keeps my mind active and sane ( I hope).


 wittenham 10 Aug 2015 10:52 AM :

 I have not been on in a while, and sorry to hear about your challenges, Jeremy On the other hand, this made me smile:

 >>so I looked at the problem, worked out that the physics was simple (just a practical application of Bernoulli’s theorem)

 reminded me of trying to read a Brief History of Time, and Hawkings writes ‘from this we can clearly see…’.



 warby 10 Aug 2015 11:29 AM :

 You can see from the messages above the high esteem you have from everyone on the forum. You have given all us help and lead us down paths we would never have thought of. Your opinions are highly cherished keep up the great work, but get yourself a break and go on holiday.


 notnickclegg 10 Aug 2015 12:27 PM:

 That’s quite a story, and kudos to you for sharing it. Well done for recognising the issue before it was too late. I’ll mirror what someone else said: having a chat with a professional could well be of help. Even if all’s fine now, the right professional (getting the right one is critical) could still well help you. I suspect your wife would benefit too – two years is a long time to still be affected day to day about the passing of even a close family member.

 One thing I found has helped is doing some strenuous exercise two or three times a week. I’ve fallen out of that habit recently and am convinced that’s part of why I’ve been particularly stressed lately. The other thing to consider is reducing your caffeine intake (I seem to recall that you drink a lot of tea – maybe more than usual given your access to a hot water tap? :-)).

 I also agree with you about stress and building. I’ve had only five instances of serious anxiety in my life, which have left me lying awake all night with palpatations. One was when we were burgled. Another was when a professional exam that I was taking turned out to be a completely unexpected nightmare (I passed in the end, but there were a lot of complaints, and I suspect the markers completely changed the marking scale they’d originally planned to use).

 The other three have all been related to the stress of building a house. The last of these wasn’t even that serious an issue, but the ongoing stress tends to lower ones defences, making you more and more susceptible to these sorts of attacks.

 All the very, very best.



 declan52 10 Aug 2015 04:36 PM:

 You will have proof that is hard to argue with if as you suspect you have been short changed.


 jsharris 10 Aug 2015 05:56 PM:

I think you’re right, Declan. This is the exact quote from the driller when I asked the direct question about the hole being too shallow, when I first suspected it to be. The question I asked the driller was this:

 “I have checked the depth today, by extending the pump downpipe, cable and safety rope, and the pump bottoms out hard when lowered a further 7.5m down. I tried lifting it and lowering it several times, and it definitely hits what feels to be a hard bottom when lowered this short distance. When I pulled the pump and pipe out to check the depth it was at I found that it was around 44 to 45m down. So, it looks as if the bottom of the hole is now at about 52 to 53m below surface, yet I understood that it was drilled and lined to 70m. I’m at a bit of a loss to understand what’s going on”

 This was the exact reply from the drilling company boss:


 As discussed the borehole was installed to 65M and the slotted install runs from 65M to 53M.”

  Now, all along we’ve had a problem with the bottom seeming to be around 52 to 55m down, rather than 65m down that we paid for. When I got the drillers back to airlift the hole this was as deep as they got. When I airlifted it myself I got to the same sort of depth with the pipe bottoming out hard. The video shows a reasonably clean hole with the slotted liner starting at around 41m, +/- a metre as I didn’t measure it today (I will tomorrow!). According to the driller the slotted liner shouldn’t start until 53m down, but that’s clearly wholly untrue, as I can’t be out by more than a metre at most in my measurements (I have markers every 5m on the camera cable.

I know, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that the camera jammed at pretty much exactly 49 metres, as I double checked it with the cable held up straight. I counted the pipe joints and it jammed about 2/3rds to 3/4s of the way past the joint for the second slotted liner section, and the liner comes in 3m sections I think. That means that the camera jammed around 5 to 5.5m below the start of the slotted liner section, which according to the drillers statement should put it at a depth of 58 to 58.5m. It was definitely nowhere near that depth, as I only have 59m of usable cable on the camera, and there was slack on the reel.


 PeterW 10 Aug 2015 08:18 PM:

 Jeremy, I read your blog as inspiration and sometimes for light humour too ! And in some of what you say I recognise myself, and facing the gentle slide of depression can be a challenge for anyone including those who are strong and resourceful as the focus of your actions has to be yourself – and that is the hardest person to change ! And just talking about it is hard too…

But on a light hearted note it was this line that did it… ” Around 30 years ago I salvaged some old cameras taken off a deep diving submersible…”

 And I thought I hoarded “useful things..”


 declan52 11 Aug 2015 12:05 AM :

 It would be a fairly common practice to add a few Metres. Realistically apart from yourself who would have the knowledge to knock a camera up to check the depth.

If it’s clear right to the bottom you should be able to make out the cap which will mean thats the bottom no matter what the drillers records say. Then his boss might have a bit of explaining to do.


 jsharris 11 Aug 2015 06:58 AM :

 I should be able to get to the bottom today, as I made a new light rig up last night (machined from a bit of 3 1/4″ alloy bar I had lying around – took ages as it’s 90% waste!). The overall diameter of the camera is within a few mm of the pump now, and I know the pump goes right to the apparent bottom (as mentioned in that quote above).

 It may well be “common practice” to add on a few metres, but I was being charged for drilling, lining etc by the metre, so every metre over-stated added another £100 to the bill. If they are ten metres over on their bill (and I think they could be at least that, as their bill actually says they drilled and lined to 70m, not 65 as quoted in the email) then that’s a grand over the top just for starters.

 I personally think they overcharged me around £1500 or more, plus there’s now the issue of the knackered Grundfos pump, which may well be knackered because they specifically, in writing, told me to pump the hole with it for two weeks, non stop, using it to get the sand out. They are now saying that this won’t be covered by the Grundfos warranty, something I also asked them when they asked me to do all this pumping. I can understand Grundfos not covering sand damage, but the driller advice to me may have cost me over £600 in a busted pump.

 If, as I suspect, I find the bottom of the hole well short of the billed depth later today, the drilling company are getting one chance to offer me a settlement to resolve the overpayment and the pump, then it’s going to court, as I’ve had enough.




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