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Front Page » July 7, 2011 » Carbon County News » Emma Park drilling: Price decides to go deeper in its que...
Published 1,556 days ago

Emma Park drilling: Price decides to go deeper in its quest for new ground water

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Sun Advocate reporter

Despite hitting some snags and tough rock formations below the surface, the Price City Council gave a green light to continue drilling efforts in the Emma Park area in the city's quest to find another water source for the future.

The city council voted 4-1 in favor of continuing the project with the new details that were presented to them during a special meeting last Wednesday. Councilman Rick Davis voted against continuing the project.

Dr. David Hansen, an engineer with Hansen, Allen and Luce Engineering, gave a presentation to the city council about the current status of the water project. The drilling at well site number one did not produce the results the city or the engineers were hoping for. The well was drilled down to a depth of 1,927 feet and water was found to be in the vicinity of the well. Gary Sonntag, Price City public works director, said the water that was encountered averaged about 50 to 60 gallons per minute which was much less than the city was hoping to see.

"The amount of water was low for what we were hoping to see from the well," Sonntag said in a phone interview on Friday.

The well was also plagued by other findings including fractures found in the rock formations where the drilling was taking place. Also, water samples collected from the well were tested and showed a high degree of silt. These two factors combined and the possible financial obligations working through the problems of silt and fractures were reason enough for the city to scrap well site number one and move on to the second well site, Sonntag said.

"The fractures and the high degree of silt in the water contributed to the poor results of well number one," Sonntag explained. "Those findings did not give us hope for the well and it was not going to be economically feasible for the city to continue working on the well."

The search to find water has moved to well site number two, which is located about one mile east of well number one. At last notice, the drilling at well number two reached a depth of 1,727 feet. The well has been drilled through a sandstone rock layer that has shown some water estimated to be around 50 to 60 gallons per minute, Sonntag said.

The city is looking to tap into the Price River Formation in the Emma Park area where a bigger source of water may be located, said Councilman Richard Tatton.

At depths between 1,600 to 1,700 feet, the contractor, Layne Christensen Company, a Mission Woods, Kan., based company, experienced bridging during the drilling of the well. Bridging occurs during the drilling process when segments in the rock formation fall under the drilling equipment and can affect the work. Sonntag said the contractor was getting concerned about the drill getting stuck inside of the well due to the effects of bridging.

"Bridging runs a real risk of not only getting the drill bit stuck, but it can also break apart in the well," Sonntag said. If a drill bit were to break inside of the well it could require having to start from the beginning and drill a new well, he said.

The city council also approved the contractor to drill down to a depth of 2,300 if it is deemed necessary to find water.

Councilman Davis said he voted against continuing the work on the project, saying the city needed to review the entire project. The risks of drilling and not finding enough water are concerning, he said.

"As with any project you're going to take a certain amount of risk," Davis said. "Maybe we need to think about what we're doing." He suggested the city may need to search for a new well site with well number one not producing the water the city was hoping for.

Because the city has enough leeway within the budget for the water project, Tatton said the city should continue their search for water in Emma Park.

"Do we just quit now or do we continue to go ahead?" Tatton said. "There are no guarantees but the chances of getting water may be better with well number two."

The drilling work on both wells has used the dual tube method, which is basically a pipe within a pipe. This method has a greater capacity to help separate material from the tube while drilling, Sonntag said. But with the project undergoing change, the drilling method is changing as well. The contractor will now be drilling the well with a rotary drill, which is a process that injects a mud type-cake through the well. This process can allow for retrieving clean and clear samples of the rock cuttings during the drilling process, Sonntag said.

Despite the changes to the project, the city prepared ahead of time with the project budget in the event that problems would arise. The new work will add over $130,000 total to the budget, Sonntag said.

Tatton said the city is working with the contractor on a new contract for the additional work on the project. One of the details included within in the contract states that the city would be responsible for the cost of fixing broken materials (ex. drill bits) during the drilling work. Tatton said it was not that uncommon for a contractor to include such a request in an agreement.

The work on the project will go forward while the city council continues to negotiate with Layne Christensen Company on an updated contract, Tatton said.

The city has already put up about $2.9 million for drilling wells in the area which is being funded from the Community Impact Board with a combination of a grant and loan.

The Emma Park project does have a deadline that must be adhered to as the state water engineer has set a November deadline to show beneficial use.

With both of the wells showing some signs of water, Sonntag said the city should continue on with the drilling at well site number two as finding a new water source would greatly benefit the city in future years.

"The whole objective of this project was to find water," Sonntag explained. "We can't give up now when we run into a little problem here."

The new drilling equipment should be at the site of well number two within the next week, when the work on the water project will continue on, concluded Sonntag.

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