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Thread: Lightning Strikes Submersible

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member dryman's Avatar
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    Default Lightning Strikes Submersible

    I finally got a professional out to pull my 5 hp submersible pump from my well. The problem is that it would not budge when he pulled on it. After several attempts, he said that my well was struck by lightning and that it must have fused the pump to the PVC casing. The pump was set at 340' and it was in 4" casing. Is there anything I can do beside drill a new well? I thought I would check with others before committing to a new well. Thanks in advance, dryman.

  2. #2
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    I cannot say how things are done in Texas, but here the casing is usually only 30-40 feet long and the rest of the drill hole is in rock. You may have a collapsed well, but I'm not buying the lightning story.

    If it were my well, I would pull and pound until something breaks. Sometimes the drop pipe breaks off the top of the pump and a new pump can be set above the level of the old one.

  3. #3
    Porky Cutter,MGWC Porky's Avatar
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    Yep, Lightning can damage the pump and the well casing but I don't feel it would have fused the pump to the well casing. If it's steel drop pipe I would push and pull maybe even drive down on the drop pipe until something gave). Then try to pull what will come out and have a qualified driller with a down hole camera to see what happened before I drilled a new well. Drilling a new well would be expensive and my last option.
    Porky Cutter, MGWC
    (Master Ground Water Consultant)

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    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    What kind of pipe is the pump hung on?

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    DIY Junior Member dryman's Avatar
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    It is on 2" pvc pipe with brass couplings. I think I will try to add some pipe and push it down as Porky suggested. I guess I could hook my front-end loader to it and pull till something breaks. Drilling a new well IS and expensive option.

  6. #6
    In the Trades Texas Wellman's Avatar
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    If it's set on 2" PVC he should easily be able to at least pull until the pipe breaks.

    Have seen a few (not many) that were stuck in the casing. It's times like these you wish it were hung on galvanized pipe.

  7. #7
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porky View Post
    Drilling a new well would be expensive...
    $48 per foot in these parts.

  8. #8
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    I'm trying to picture a 5 HP pump in a 4" casing. It must be a damn close fit. My 4" pump is 3 3/4" dia. which would leave a mere 1/8" all the way around in a 4" casing.

    I wonder how many GPM the pump is to use 2" drop pipe or is 2" used for strength, not for flow? Using an area calculation, a 4" casing would have an area of 12.566370614359 sq. in. A 3 3/34" pump would displace 11.044661672777 sq. in. leaving only 1.521708941582 sq. in. for flow past the motor, far less than what the 2" drop pipe has. The velocity that narrow space creates should slow the development of encrustation. However, I have heard of heavy encrustations at the surface of the static water table and pumps having difficulty getting past it.

    When I pulled my pump out of my 6" casing it was heavily encrusted, up to 1/2" thick in places. I can imagine there could be encrustations on the inside of the casing too. Around here, drillers use mostly 6" casing.

    Anyway... that is a digression. I wonder how hard one could pound downward on 2" PVC in the hopes of dislodging the pump? If it did finally dislodge, it could plummet down out of reach if precautions were not taken to prevent that from happening.

    Also, back to the theory of lightning as the culprit. Since the downpipe is a non-conductor as too is the casing, the energy of the lightning hit would all have to be carried by the water in the pipe and the wires to the motor. That said, there should be some serious evidence or lightning damage at the surface.

  9. #9
    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    I suspect he measured the O.D. of the pipe. IMO, PVC is too flexible to get any downward force on a long length of pipe.

    I would still look for a plumber with a camera snake to inspect the hole.

    If you have the resources, you can use a section of heavy steel pipe slid over the drop pipe down to the pump and use it like a hammer. Hang it on an appropriately sized length of steel cable so you can repeatedly raise and drop it from the well head. Tie off the end so that no matter what happens, you can't drop the cable down the well. Do the same with the top of the drop pipe, so you don't loose the whole works if it breaks free.

    You never mentioned whether you have a pitless adapter. We are assuming the drop pipe is free and clear.

  10. #10
    In the Trades Texas Wellman's Avatar
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    Doesn't matter if the pump is .5 HP or 5 HP, they all have the same OD. When you're pumping 100+ gpm from the well you'll understand why you need the 2" pipe. I don't know how all that water gets around the motor, but it does.

    I guess this is why they now sell 4.5" and 5" casing...

  11. #11
    Moderator valveman's Avatar
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    I know its a tight fit, but I have tested it and a 3.5" motor in 4" casing doesn't have much restriction until you are pumping over 60 GPM. It is possible fot lightning to expand a motor enough to stick it to 4" casing, but it is usually caused by excess heat. We have had pumps stick in 5" casing when the well head freezes, or there is a hole in the drop pipe. When the pump is running and the well head is frozen or a hole in the pipe circulates the same water over and over, the casing gets hot and melts. Then the pressure of the earth squeezes the casing in all around the pump and motor. Not much you can do in this case unless you can break the pipe off at the pump and you have enough water to set another pump above the old one.

  12. #12
    Porky Cutter,MGWC Porky's Avatar
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    It's a dead well until something comes out or falls down. I'd pull and push on the drop pipe until something gives somewhere. Once the drop pipe is out and if it breaks below the static water line you may be able to get another pump installed above the pump now in the well. We have even used a couple railroad jacks to force pull something stuck in a well. Just be careful, pulling to the breaking point can be dangerous and myself or Terry Love Forum can't be held responsible.
    Porky Cutter, MGWC
    (Master Ground Water Consultant)

  13. #13
    DIY Junior Member musicinabottle's Avatar
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    A pump that size in a well only 4 inches in diameter, probably got silted in and could be why it burned out. Have you tried a steady even upward pull type pressure. Might be gunked in and could help free it up.

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