A promising new well the town is drilling on Northern Gila County Sanitary District property is proving troublesome, but town water resources geologist Mike Ploughe remains confident.
"Anything we can find that's carrying some water, we're going to make it work no matter what it takes," Ploughe said.
"It's just a matter of time."
Drillers found some water at 380 feet, but ran into problems at 400 feet.
"The formation that we drilled into is pretty weak and it's collapsing on us," Ploughe said.
"It's carrying water too, so it makes it really difficult to not only drill through but to figure how much water you're really working with."
Ploughe estimates the well could eventually produce at least 100 gallons per minute, but he is hoping for more. The town's top well in the Payson West area produces 850 to 900 gallons a minute.
"At this point, I'd say the (new well) is not in that ballpark," he said, "but it certainly looks like there's quite a bit more than what we're seeing."
Ploughe said the Payson West well created similar problems.
"That well was an adventure in itself," he said. "It's a 925-foot well and we had problems at 515, 520. We couldn't get the casing past 550."
It's not uncommon for high-producing wells to be troublesome.
"We've got what looks like a reasonable amount of water," Ploughe said. "What comes along with that is a well that's a pain in the neck to finish."
The geology of the NGCSD well is promising, Ploughe said.
"We started out in the dark rocks (that are typical) on the south side of town, and eventually we'll drill into the pink granite you see around town everywhere," he said. "That's where we hope to pick up the majority of water. It's a good sign that we're picking up water already and we're not even into the primary area."
The location of the well is sufficiently distant from the NGCSD waste treatment facility, he said.
The well is the second in a series of exploratory wells planned for the NGCSD site.
"After drilling the first well to about 860 or so, it became apparent that what we were looking for was a little bit offset from where we originally set up," Ploughe said. "That's why they call it exploration. The next well site I made some adjustments to the location and it worked out great."
The rationale for drilling in the area is simple.
"It's the bottom of the system, so anything that leaves Payson would leave through that general area," Ploughe said.
McKamey Street well down
A town well on McKamey Street has been partially shut down, causing water officials to divert their efforts to complete the NGCSD well.
"We had a pump go down where the column pipe broke off, and we spent a few weeks trying to get everything back out of the hole and it would not come out," Ploughe said. "The lower part of the hole collapsed in on the column pipe that was down there."
At 380 to 400 gallons a minute, the McKamey Well is one of the good ones. It is still producing some water.
"We still have the upper part of the well to work with, but the lower part isn't going to produce like it did before," he said.
Water officials are hopeful the well can be returned to full service within 30 days.