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Well companies flooded with calls for new wells as drought persists

Union Leader Correspondent

September 25. 2016 7:54PM

Well digger Tyler Kulas of Skillings & Sons prepares the casings before digging a well at an Amherst home where an an existing well has gone dry. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

The extreme drought conditions gripping southeastern New Hampshire are keeping local well companies busy as struggling homeowners look to replace their bone-dry shallow dug wells with new drilled bedrock wells.

“We’re backed up three to four weeks,” said Roger Skillings, co-owner of Skillings & Sons Inc., a well drilling and water system installation and maintenance company based in Amherst.

Skillings said the phone has been ringing off the hook for the past two weeks as more wells have gone dry.

Many of those calling for new wells are in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties.

Skillings has never seen it this bad in his 46 years in the well water business.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than half of the state is experiencing some drought conditions, with the worst being felt in southeastern areas.

At Clear Water Artesian Well Company in Rollinsford, about a third of its business is now directly related to the drought. Office manager Dennis Dubois said the company received three calls on Monday alone from people looking for a new well.

One caller explained how she’s lived on her property for 60 years and never had a dry well until now.

“People thought they could weather through it, but the drought is continuing and there’s no substantial rain to replenish the supply,” Dubois said.

Northeast Water Wells Inc. in Hudson has seen a spike in requests to drill new wells but also deepen existing wells to handle the drought.

The highest number of calls have come from eastern areas where drought conditions began several weeks ago.

“I’ve had quite a few calls from the Kingston area,” said Cliff Connolly, the company’s vice president.

Those forced to install a new drilled well will have to dig deep into their pockets. Connolly said the average cost ranges from $8,000 to $12,000.

Anyone looking to increase the depth of their existing wells is looking at a starting price of about $3,000, but the final cost depends on how deep they want to go.

With state officials now calling for drought conditions to persist into winter, Connolly said it’s important for homeowners with dry wells to remember that wells can be drilled year-round.

“Unfortunately for many, until they run out they don’t realize there’s a problem,” said Abby Fopiano, general manager and hydrogeologist at Epping Well & Pump in Epping.

Fopiano said they’ve received calls about drought-related well problems from residents in several local communities, including Barrington, Brentwood, Durham, Epping, Madbury and Nottingham.

Fopiano said some of the symptoms of a well experiencing water problems are decreased pressure, cloudy water from sediment, and air spewing from the faucet.

While most drilled wells haven’t been affected, well experts urge homeowners not to let their guard down as they could also begin experiencing trouble if the drought continues to worsen.

“We’re not seeing the impact with the drilled wells, although I expect that will come later,” said Steve Smith, president of Smith Pump Co. in Hooksett.

Capital Well Clean Water, a Dunbarton-based business that also has a branch in Lancaster, was busy Thursday drilling wells both for new construction and in response to the drought.

"This is one of the biggest backlogs we've had in the history of the company," said Mike Dragon, the company's president. "We've actually purchased extra equipment to take care of the workload. It's amazing how many calls are coming in. Guys are working a lot of overtime to take care of the all the needs, six or seven days a week."

Meanwhile, more communities are taking steps to conserve water.

The Timberlane Regional School District announced Wednesday that it would immediately ban the use of irrigation systems for all of its schools and fields. Students and staff are also being asked to minimize water usage in buildings throughout the district, which serves Atkinson, Danville, Plaistow and Sandown.

Selectmen in Plaistow this week also adopted outdoor water restrictions for residences and businesses.

The state Department of Environmental Services has recommended that municipalities implement mandatory lawn watering bans. The agency is also asking the public to discontinue non-essential outdoor water use and take efficiency measures indoors.

On Thursday, the town of Newmarket announced a ban on all outside water usage for those on the public water system with the exception of those who need to water crops by a hose. The ban currently does not apply to private wells.

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