New City water well reveals surprise 1,000 feet down

workers drill COF's 3rd water well in the PW shop yard 2017-04-04
Workers drill a new City of Ferndale water well to a depth of 1000-feet in the Public Works shop yard (April 4th, 2017). Photo: Discover Ferndale

A City of Ferndale contractor spent several months last year drilling a new well, the 2nd located on the City’s Public Works shop property on Legoe Avenue behind the Ferndale Police Station.

According to Public Works Director Kevin Renz, the goals for drilling the well included providing redundancy in the event either or both of the other two wells should fail, increasing the City’s available water supply and exploring to a depth of up to 1000 feet.

The other well on the Public Works shop property was drilled to a depth of 160 feet in the 1950s and drilling stopped once they reached a water layer, according to Renz.

Drilling on the 3rd well began a year ago in early April. Renz said that after passing through the shallow aquifer the existing wells tap into they went several hundreds of feet encountering only silt.

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But just past a depth of 800 feet, wet sand was discovered and continued for nearly 200 feet according to City officials. At 1,000 feet, the project goal, they were still in wet sand and it was decided to continue at least a little bit further. At 1,034 feet, they found what appeared to be a new and previously unknown aquifer.

Along with the fresh water being pumped from the well, round rocks bubbled to the surface through the well’s shaft. Their well-worn shapes (see photo) indicated they came from a high-energy environment like a riverbed. Renz told attendees at a recent City Council Committee meeting the worn rocks may indicate the aquifer is a flowing subterranean river, speculating it could be anything from something small and localized to part of a large system stretching as far away as Alaska.

mayor jon mutchler shares one of the well worn rocks brought up during the drilling of the 2nd pw shop well 2018-05-03
Mayor Jon Mutchler shares one of the well worn rocks brought up during the drilling of the 2nd Public Works Shop well (May 3, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale

Hydrologists agree, Renz said, there are no other clues to the size and shape of this aquifer. Renz pointed out, “No one is in this aquifer. We didn’t know it existed. No one else has put a well into it.”

Carbon dating of material pulled up shows the material brought up is about 40,000-years-old according to Renz.

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Hydrology engineers did not detect any “boundaries” to the well as a water source during the initial pump testing, Renz said.

City Administrator Greg Young said with so many wells tapping the shallow aquifer, it is the City’s hope to transition at least some of City’s water supply dependence from the two shallow wells to this deeper well.

Renz told City Councilmembers attending the Council Committee meeting that they next steps involved working with engineers to develop the means to connect the new well with the City’s water purification system after which it may be included with the other existing wells to serve the City’s water utility customers.

mayor jon mutchler shares one of the well worn rocks brought up during the drilling of the 2nd pw shop well - closeup - 2018-05-03
A closeup of one of the well worn rocks brought up during the drilling of the 2nd Public Works Shop well (May 3, 2018). Photo: Discover Ferndale