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Well woes plague twp.

July 20, 2011 - Three out of four.

That's how many Oxford Township municipal wells are currently off-line near the water treatment plant at Seymour Lake and Dunlap roads.

"The common denominator between all of these seems to be that there's some sand that's being caught by the pumps and causing them to fail and so forth," said township engineer Jim Sharpe as he addressed the township board last week.

Well #1, which pumps 600 gallons per minute (gpm), was taken off line during the winter because it was originally drilled 23.76 inches out of plumb. This caused the well to pump sand along with water, the abrasive effects of which resulted in excessive wear on the pump.

Since then, two more wells were taken out of service.

Back in early spring, the motor on Well #4, which pumps 1,000 gpm, went out. A new motor and pump won't be here until July 25.

Sharp indicated that although Well #4's motor went out due to an electrical issue (i.e. it shorted out), sand was found in the pump and that could have put a strain on the motor.

Last week, the pump on Well #2, which produces 600 gpm, went out, the result of sand.

"Well #3 (1,000 gpm), that's still working right now, but given what's happened with three out of the other four wells, who knows what type of life that has?" Sharpe said.

Even when all four wells were operational, Sharpe explained that most of the time, only two would run, while the other served as back-ups.

Fortunately, the township has enough capacity to keep the community hydrated thanks to its other well houses in Oxford Oaks, Oxford Woods and Mickelson Shores, plus the two water storage towers, which can hold a combined 1.5 million gallons. Normally, the Mickelson Shores well house is off-line. It was re-activated in light of the current situation.

For now, the township board addressed what to do about Wells #1 and #2.

Officials voted 6-0 to authorize the Indiana-based Peerless-Midwest, Inc. to redevelop Well #2 for a cost not to exceed $18,000. If successful, meaning it ends the sand problem, the board authorized the expenditure of up to $24,000 for a new pump and motor for the well.

Redeveloping a well basically involves shooting either water or air into it in order to blow everything out and re-establish the gravel pack, which prevents sand from moving from the aquifer formation into the well.

If the redevelopment of Well #2 is successful, it could help solve the issue with Well #1.

"They said if they redevelop this, there's a good chance that they may be able to use that data to redevelop #1," said township Supervisor Bill Dunn.

According to township attorney Gary Rentrop, Peerless-Midwest has indicated the chances of successfully redeveloping Well #1 are less than 50 percent.

How to fix Well #1 – if it can be fixed – and who's going to pay for it has still not been determined.

Based near Grand Rapids, Stearns Drilling Co., which drilled Well #1 – along with the other three wells – back in 2004-05, has indicated it will not participate in the redevelopment of the faulty well.

Originally, Stearns said it would redevelop Well #1 if the township paid the company $3,000 to help offset its costs.

However, when the township countered with a proposal that if the redevelopment didn't work, Stearns would still be responsible for rectifying the problem, plus reimburse the municipality the $3,000, the drilling company rejected it, according to Rentrop.

Rentrop told officials that Stearns is now refusing to participate in Well #1's possible redevelopment because the company's insurance provider has indicated any further work would void its coverage if the township sued.

"They will not get involved at all," he told officials.

Should the township agree to completely release Stearns of all legal liability, the company has indicated it would fix Well #1 "at a very good price," Rentrop noted.

The township's insurance carrier has already denied coverage citing poor workmanship as an exclusion in the municipality's policy.

"I'm not convinced that we're done with the insurance company," said township Trustee Mike Spisz.

Stearns claimed it struck a rock, which is not uncommon, while drilling Well #1 and that resulted in its casing being nearly 2 feet out of plumb.

Officials voted 4-2 to authorize Rentrop to further investigate potential litigation relative to the well situation and report his findings to the township board at its July 20 meeting.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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