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2014-09-04

BCRAGD opts to issue another NOV to PC Water Well 'Gang who couldn't drill straight' in hot water again

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The board of the Bandera Country River Authority and Groundwater District voted August 22 to issue another Notice of Violation to a local well driller and a well drilling company. Pipe Creek Water Well, owner Robert Rae Powell and driller Rodger North will receive the NOVs following a unanimous vote of the board of directors.
The violations allegedly occurred at a replacement well drilled by the company following the failure of another well on a ranch property on Highway 173 South. Both Powell and North were issued NOVs on the first well after it failed. BCRAGD ran a camera down the well to try to determine the cause of the failure and discovered numerous alleged violations.
Following required hearings in 2012, BCRAGD levied fines against the drilling company, licensed and unlicensed drillers and pump installers associated with the job.
Six men, including Powell, were charged with allegedly violating numerous BCRAGD rules governing water well drilling and water quality issues in Bandera County. Only Powell's fines, totalling $9,500 for 16 violations, remain outstanding and his case is still in litigation.
According to BCRAGD records, Powell's violations included, among others, failure to properly case a well, allowing commingling of water from different levels of the aquifers under Bandera County, allowing bad water to flow into good water, improper sizing of the bore hole, failure to case to the total depth of the well, lack of authorization and lack of providing advance notice to BCRAGD before performing certain activities.
Licensed water well driller North was assessed a fine of $1,500 for three violations, which he has paid.
Both wells were drilled for John Hayes on his property off of Highway 173 South. Construction of the first well was partially funded by USDA-NRCS programs. The well was intended for watering livestock.
At the BCRAGD board's called meeting on August 22, district General Manager Dave Mauk informed the board of the failure of the second "replacement" well. He showed the video from the camera run that was performed on the failed well.
"The well is almost two years old and the pump failed," said Mauk. "It was supposedly pressure grouted to 400 feet.... And cased to total depth. The video shows the casing shattered at 110 feet at a joint and there is no grout behind it."
Mauk showed that nearly every joint in the casing is shattered. Board member Sid Gibson asked how that could happen. Board member and well driller Jerry Sides replied, "They pushed on it." Sides opined that the well may have collapsed down low during the drilling and the drillers tried to push the casing down to the depth the well was supposed to be.
Mauk also reported that when the pump failed and was pulled from the well, electrical wires were found to have been spliced "with no protective sleeves." There was also evidence of commingling of waters from the Edwards and Lower Trinity Aquifers.
Mauk said the well had had previous NOVs regarding inconsistencies in the well log, the responsibility of North. "We didn't film the well at that time because it was completed and sealed before we could," Mauk said.
When asked if the well could be repaired, Mauk replied, "It's catastrophic. It'll have to be plugged."
Mauk said he had reported the findings to the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration and a state investigator had already been in Bandera.
Gibson reminded the board that situations like this are why the district needs to be working on legislation that holds drilling companies responsible. Current law provides for licensing of drillers, but not the drilling companies.
Sides indicated that he hoped the district can eventually get a judgment against Powell and North to defray the cost of plugging the well.
When Gibson asked how many of these kinds of bad wells are out there in the county, Mauk answered, "We only find out about them when they fail."