By Tim Cox
The available water from two county-maintained wells in eastern Jefferson Township could be increased significantly by using underground explosives to increase the bedrock fractures that fill with water.
That was one of the options provided to Mercer County Commissioners by an expert in the field. Other options could include another type of blasting or county officials could simply looks elsewhere for additional wells.
County officials are looking into the possibility of building a water plant to serve residents in the area, who now get their water from the city of Celina. County officials also are trying to convince an ethanol investment group to build a plant in the same area and that would require lots of water. Separately, county officials are talking with city officials about the possibility of creating a regional water system to serve the needs of the entire community.
County officials are looking for a source that could produce 2.5 million to 3 million gallons of water daily.
The existing wells could meet those demands, with a little help from some high explosives, Allen Comensky told commissioners. The production of a well depends heavily on its contact with underground rock fissures that are filled with water, Comensky said. Blasting almost certainly would improve the production of the wells, but the success of using explosives varies greatly from well to well, he said.
There is no doubt the county well field has abundant water but officials need to maximize the production of those wells to help meet their needs, Comensky said.
"One place you get (water), one place you don't. You've got it," Comensky said.
"It's already a good well field, maybe we can make it a great well field," said Fanning/Howey Associates engineer Jared Ebbing, who is working with county officials on the issue.
Conventional blasting would run about $4,000 per well, Comensky said. The method poses some risk to well casings and pump equipment, he said.
Another option would be to try "rubble zone" blasting, Comensky said, although he called it a potential "gonzo" idea that might not pass muster with state officials.
The method involves a series of closely placed underground charges aimed at breaking apart a layer of rock to allow water to flow more freely. By doing so, the county wells could me made to draw water from all directions. Currently, the wells draw mainly from a strong north-south flow that closely follows the ancient Teays River valley.
Getting a couple of highly productive wells is more economical than maintaining numerous small wells for many years, Comensky said.
"An investment in exploration will pay off in fewer, higher capacity wells with correspondingly lower operation and maintenance costs," he said.
The county could drill for more wells, but the geographic area is limited because of a continental divide issue. The drainage divide is heavily regulated, and the county could not currently draw water from north of that area and discharge it to the south through the city of Celina's sewer plant.
If a sewer plant were someday built north of the divide, the continental divide regulations would not be an issue.
Commissioners made no decisions on blasting or further well searches. They are simply gathering information for the ongoing water discussion.