GardeningHighlighted Posts

How to Remove Silt Mud Sediment from a Well – Repair and Clean

By June 8, 2018 February 21st, 2019 No Comments

Mud, silt, and sediment removal and pumping from a shallow well. Well Sediment builds up over time and needs to be removed. Dug well cleaning of mud can be a daunting task. First you have to repair any leaks in the well rings to stop the the silt from building up.

See the How to Video.

Background for the Well Sediment Removal Project

Here on the west coast we have plenty of water in the winter months but it can get really dry in the summer. So having enough water for our expanding garden is a concern.

Separate Irrigation Well

Separate Irrigation Well

We are fortunate to have an irrigation well over in the corner of our property.

Irrigation Well Pumphouse

Irrigation Well Pumphouse

It’s a shallow dug well with a pump house. There’s an underground water line running across the field to hose bibs on the house for the flower beds there.

1" black poly water line runs under field to house

1″ black poly water line runs under field to house

Irrigation Line runs to the house for gardens there

Irrigation Line runs to the house for gardens there

New Garden adds to Water Needs

Last year we fenced in a large section of our field here for a vegetable garden.

Tapped into line for garden

Tapped into line for garde

I tapped into that underground one inch line and put in several hose bibs inside this fenced area.

We had just enough time last spring to add some beds with timers and drip irrigation to our new garden.

Drip Irrigation Analog Timer

Drip Irrigation Analog Timer

Drip Tape in Garden Boxes

Drip Tape in Garden Boxes

During the driest part of the summer the well was getting very low and I worried that we would run out of water.

Depth of Water in Well

Depth of Water in Well

Checking the well, I found that when full I had a water depth of about eight feet or approximately five hundred gallons.

Old diagram of well and water system

Old diagram of well and water system

A old hand drawn sketch of the irrigation water system indicated that the well was originally sixteen feet deep.

Old Irrigation Well Silting Up

Over the years the well has silted up and there must be close to six feet of mud in the bottom.

3D Illustration of Sediment in Irrigation Well

3D Illustration of Sediment in Irrigation Well

The original one and a quarter inch plastic hose is buried securely in the mud.

Original water line buried in mud

Original water line buried in mud

Also, a six inch diameter plastic drain pipe that’s hung by a rope in the middle is also mostly buried and won’t budge.

6" Drain Pipe also very stuck in the well's sediment

6″ Drain Pipe also very stuck in the well’s sediment

Drain Pipe with Slots down it's length

Drain Pipe with Slots down it’s length

I found later that this big pipe had several slots cut down it’s length and it was sunk right to the bottom.

It looks like the previous owner had their pump hose with foot valve running down inside it. Perhaps it kept mud and silt from clogging the foot valve. I can’t say for sure what it’s purpose was but if you’ve seen anything like this then please leave me a note in the comment section below.

The Mud has to come out

To expand our garden and have the water we need I knew I had to find a way to get the mud out. Talking with my neighbours they suggested I rent a gas powered trash pump, stir up the sediment with a long pole, then pump the thick slurry of mud and water out onto the field. When the mud dried it could then be shovelled up and carted away.

Options for mud removal from well

Options for mud removal from well

Others had suggested that you need to get down there on a rope with buckets and bail the sediment out by hand. I’ve taken some confined space awareness training so I felt this was not a good idea. Not for me anyways.

The trash pump sounded like it might work but I was worried it wouldn’t have the suction needed if the deeper layers of sediment had compressed into sticky, heavy clay.

What’s the Source of the Well Sediment?

There’s a small stream beside the well that has, over the years, redirected itself to run right up against the concrete casing rings.

Stream beside well

Stream beside well

I suspected that it may have overtopped the casings during a heavy storm and been the source of most of the well sediment.

Stream ran right up against casing previous year(s)

Stream ran right up against casing previous year(s)

I redirected the steam away from the well last summer in case that was adding to the silt up.

Well Repairs

Found a large hole in the casing

Found a large hole in the casing

I found muddy water leaking around the seam of the first and second ring and a trail of mud running down the inside. I dug a hole on the outside to investigate. Sure enough there was a two inch diameter hole in the side of the well.

Brace on inside

Brace on inside

Thin plywood attached to 2x4 wedged into well

Thin plywood attached to 2×4 wedged into well

I braced a thin piece of flexible plywood with a two by four on the inside against the hole.

Patching Hole with Cement from the outside

Patching Hole with Cement from the outside

Finished Cement Plug on Outside Ring of Well Casting

Finished Cement Plug on Outside Ring of Well Casting

Then mixed up a bag of cement and poured it against the outside wall, pushing the wet cement into the hole to form a plug.

Wire always adds strength to concrete

Wire always adds strength to concrete

For extra strength, I added a small section of wire reinforcing grid to the cement plug.

Hydraulic Cement Mortar Patch on inside of well casing

Hydraulic Cement Mortar Patch on inside of well casing

After a few days I removed the plywood then patched up the inside with some hydraulic cement mortar. This is super fast setting cement, designed to plug concrete water leaks and it worked very well!

There’s a four inch diameter cement pipe that runs just underground from the pump house, over the stream, and through the wall of the well. This pipe protects the one and a quarter inch black plastic water line.

Gap where pipe penetrates well also patched

Gap where pipe penetrates well also patched

Around this pipe there was a big gap that mud could get in, so I also patched that with hydraulic cement too.

The Best Solution to Remove our Well Sediment

It was suggested by another friend that a vacuum truck might be a better way to get the mud out.

Maybe a vacuum truck could pump mud that deep?

Maybe a vacuum truck could pump mud that deep?

Shallow Well Clean Out.

So I arranged to have a local pumping contractor come over and try to remove the well sediment. Before he came, I pumped all the water into a tank and several garbage cans.

Temporary water storage to empty well

Temporary water storage to empty well

No sense in wasting any and, we might need this water later to loosen up the mud and spray down the inside of the well casing to clean it.

Vacuum Truck

Vacuum Truck

Lucky to get truck so close to the well

Lucky to get truck so close to the well

Our well is near a road so the owner of the vacuum truck, Mike was able to park close by. He ran his three inch suction hose down the slope and into the well.

Vacuum Hole sucking out Mud and Sediment from Shallow Well Bottom

Vacuum Hole sucking out Mud and Sediment from Shallow Well Bottom

It didn’t take long to see that this was working. The strength of the suction was impressive and the well sediment was coming out. The first few feet the mud was soft and it pumped pretty quickly.

Deeper Mud was Heavier Clay

Deeper Mud and well sediment was Heavier Clay

The deeper he went the harder the mud became and had the consistency of clay.

6" Drain Pipe with Slots was finally removable

6″ Drain Pipe with Slots was finally removable

Drain Pipe removal

He was able to free that big six inch drain pipe and pull it up out of the way. The old water hose also became free and we got it out of the way too. After a few hours Mike reached the bottom and we could hear gravel coming up the hose.

Checking depth with tape measure

Checking depth with tape measure

Almost all mud gone!

Almost all well sediment and mud gone!

I checked the depth with a tape and we were down fifteen feet.

He was able to get almost all the mud out, and his hose was just long enough to reach the bottom. I was relieved that this worked so well.

Cap and lid back on clean well

Cap and lid back on clean well

lid back on irrigation well

Last thing to do is to get the lids back on the well.

Thanks for your interest in this short post on how we got mud out of our irrigation well. While you are here, please see our Support Page to help us make more posts and videos like this. We really appreciate anything you can do to help us out!

 

 

%d bloggers like this: