Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dry Wells

It occurs to me that little has been said recently about the dry well situation in Somerset and Wicomico Counties. There was a huge uproar a few weeks ago and much blame was placed on ECI and a local sod farm. While these two entities may be partially to blame I believe much more blame should be laid squarely in the laps of developers. I am not convinced that ECI and the sod farm together uses as much water and taxes the aquifers any more than the hundreds and hundreds of new homes needing wells.

I recently heard from a source I trust that the sod farm is within the law concerning their wells. My source claims to have seen the paperwork to substantiate such. It seems the paperwork is not available (lost) in the offices where the public has access to those records. If I can find out more on this I will certainly expound on it.

It is my understanding that ECI has been ordered to reduce water consumption by a huge percentage. Hopefully they can meet the goals set forth without endangering the population in the facility. Using less water may mean less cleaning and fewer or shorter showers for the inmates. The results could possibly lead to a breeding ground of bacteria and the propagation of disease. This will only increase the over all cost of medical care for the inmates and endanger the officers and staff of the facility. Regardless of the reasons for an inmate to be incarcerated, there are some basic human rights that must be afforded to everyone. Being able to clean their environment and have showers is included.

With that in mind I would like to toss out and idea for the water problem at ECI. The U.S. Navy next year will launch the last of the Nimitz class aircraft carriers. The U.S.S. George W. Bush (CVN 77) will have a compliment of 6000 personnel. Desalination and distillation plants on board this craft will be able to supply 400,000 gals of fresh water daily to the ship. On average this is enough water to supply 2000 homes.
ECI is not that far from the Manokin River. Why is it not possible for the State to build such a plant and pipe fresh water to the storage tank already located on the property? Of course there is the initial outlay for the plant and the continued maintenance of the system, but much of those maintenance costs are incurred now with the present system. Besides, I can think of a lot more money the State has wasted on less important issues. This too would take some of the strain off of the aquifer.

(The above information about the U.S.S George W. Bush came from the Northop Gruman website)


Gunpowder Chronicler said...

Your point is valid. The barrier to implementing desalination plants has always been the amount of energy required to power them.

The USS Bush -- having twin nuclear reactors -- actually has a surplus of power that can generate the requisite amount of energy.

However, one does wonder if that it is still viable given the other option is now water at all.

Soapbox said...

What you say is very true. But ECI is taking a big hit for the dry wells and it may or may not be a founded claim. Who is to say really? Nonetheless the citizens are looking to the government to bail them out of this dilemma, (at least in part).

This could be a great issue for debate. Thank you for your input. Hopefully others will comment as well.

Gunpowder Chronicler said...

Another question on ECI...

Is it possible that the mass amounts of water consumption are not for potable water, but for steam generation?

Steam generation requires COPIOUS amounts of water-- and is used in large facilities for more than just creating electricity.

If that is the case, the water issue might be an altogether larger issue and might require some highly creative thinking.

Of course, this is Maryland, where there is very little creative thinking on a state level.

Soapbox said...

Excellent question.
As I recall there this a plant on site that uses “wood chips” or “wood waste” to generate power. Now that is as far as I will go until I delve into this further, but on the surface it would seem that it would indicate steam generation.

This now raises additional questions. Does the water used for steam generation for power have to be a potable quality? If not than the distillation process from the Manokin River may not have to be as refined. Thus usage from wells for cooking, cleaning and consumption could be reduced.

Caughtit said...

I've heard, the wasted water at eci is from the inmates. They flush the toilets constantly to keep drinks cool in the cells.

Technetium said...


I am not a licensed stationary engineer(but I am the son of a licensed stationary engineer), so I won't claim to be an expert. But, I do know this:

1) Does it need to be "potable" (that means safe to consume by humans for those of you on ranches in West Delmar)?

Not in the strict sense. But it does need to be relatively free of impurities -- like salts -- otherwise, the boilers would see considerable scaling, which would weaken the system dramatically. The #1 cause of boiler explosions on steam locomotives was scaling and deposits left behind by poor water.

2) The wood chip thing.

It's my understanding that the wood chip generation plant was a) never as efficient as predicted and b)was never the main source of steam generation.

A) would not surprise me at all, as wood in general has a very low BTU value, and wood "waste" would be even moreso.

B) Is only from things I heard... so I can't verify.

Overall, though Soapbox, I think your idea for desalination plants is really compelling. Even with the energy issue, because I think that can be overcome.

It really boils my blood that we don't embrace nuclear technology more fully. I mean, my God man, if the French can gen 80% of their electricity off nuclear, why can't we?

And I think if you look at the number of naval officers -- commissioned and non-commissioned -- trained in nuclear power plant operations, you have a pretty good pool of talent.

Small reactor sites -- like those on the Bush, or the Nimitz, or the Lincoln, or the TR -- could be immensely useful in areas like the Shore.

Imagine what a small nuke plant might do for a town like Crisfield in terms of jobs.

Combine that with water purification plants, and you could solve four or five problems with a single stone.

Soapbox said...

Good comments all. I am not sure if the wood plant still operates at ECI, but your comments about alternative energy is on the money. It occurs to me thaere was wake-up call in the seventies concerning petroleum use and after the initial crisis was over we all went back to complacency.
Thank you for your comments.

SicknTired said...

You mention Carriers!!!!
The NAVY still enforces "NAVY SHOWERS" which means, wet down, soap down, rinse down.
We are limited to "X"number of gallons/crew member for showers, laundry, mess deck, etc. In the OLD DAYS(50-80), 20 gallons per member was the norm. It did the job!! Inmates lounging in the showers is typical of how they are treated with TV, exercise, weights, on and on!!!!!

Soapbox said...


I am aware of the Navy regs. for showers and water use. But this is not the issue at hand. Neither is the way inmates are treated or the privileges they have. I am very close to several people who currently work, or have worked at ECI. Although you may feel they get better than deserve, when was the last time you saw anyone beating down the door trying to get in? Let’s leave that issue for another day. Water supply is the current topic.

Salisbury News & Views said...

one other point here.
The efficiency of desalination equipment is directly proportional to the cleanliness of the water it's pulling from. They work much better in the open ocean than they do in rivers and bays.
But I say feed them bread and muddy water!

Bunker Britches said...

I know that water and it's lack of is the topic but part of the problem besides that dry conditions is the type of wells and pumps that the developers and builders in that area put in.

Soapbox said...

Bunker Britches
Can you expand on that? I am not sure what you mean.

Historical Wit said...

Well part of the problem is there is plenty of treated water just being released into the bay. Go to Crisfield and pull open that manhole cover down by the docks on 413 and you will see treated water running freely into the bay. Whats that account for in ayears time? 50 mil gallons, maybe more? If they tightened up on stuff like that it would help.

ECI should figure out a way to desalinated its own water. If they generated a surplus, it would help the surroudning community. The problem is getting the energy to do that. Plus manning the plant would give the inmates job skills. Believe it or not, there is a future in water treatment.

Chuck Norris said...

bunker may mean the problem lies with the cheap 2" suction wells that most the houses have. If they had 4" wells with submersible pumps, there most likely wouldn't be a problem.

Bunker Britches said...

Chuck, That is exactly what I was talking about. The cheaper 2 inch suction wells that most of the houses that have gone dry have. A 4 inch submersible pump well would have prevented a lot of the problems. How many of those houses with "dry" wells were built by the same builder? It wasn't that the wells were necessarily dry, but that the 2 inch suction pump wells just could not bring the water up from the lowered level in these dry conditions. Who is to blame here? The uninformed home buyer? the builder who put in the less expensive but less effective well? the department of the environment who approved the wells?, the sod farm and ECI for using too much water?
As for ECI and the inmates using water from what I am told to walk on the housing units it smells like none of the inmates ever shower. pewhew!!!

Inside Looking Out said...

As for my iddy biddy input, i'll simply say i've heard the same as to what bunker britches is referring to. Another point that was told to me by a good friend i think is reliable for thinking first, then stating old are the homes having the problems? Are they the more recent homes built or are they talking about homes and well systems that are 25yr.old or older? I'd have to say that way older homes are more likely to have the old shallower wells that when a drought does occur, the low levels of actual water does drastically affect the capability of the pumps. I've driven in that area affected over the years and it seems to me there's always been quite a number of homes dotting the land.

Gunpowder Chronicler said...

An important distinction should be made here, for those who don't know the difference...

A 2.5 inch suction well isn't really "suction" powered. It's generally powered by force air (or water) into the well, thereby forcing water back up through the intake pipe. (Note: older piston driven pumps will tend to be suction powered, but those are most likely long gone by now). This is how Jet pumps work. Generally, these wells will be anywhere from 50-125 feet deep.

The 4" wells are almost always going to be submersible pumps, where the water is actually "lifted" by the pump itself. In newer designs, the pump is actually variable speed, allowing it to to run a lower speeds for less demand, higher speeds for more demand. Submersible wells can be much deeper. Up here in the veil of the Gunpowder, you have wells that might run 250-300 feet, depending on the water table.

Another affliction that hits 2.5 wells is when the "screens" or filters on the wellhead actually collapse.

This happened to my family when we lived on Mt. Hermon Road in the late 80s... during Hurricane Gloria (95?), the old piston pump couldn't re-establish the prime. So we replaced it with a Jet pump. Within a year, the screens collapsed (because of the increased pressure) and we had to replace the well. We went from a 55' well to an 80' well. (And the original 55' well, driven in the 60's, was about 4.5 feet under Mt. Hermon Road by that time).