A friend and I were walking past one of the more remote farms along the moorland fringe which still had its own spring fed water supply. My friend waxed lyrical about the the wonderful quality of spring water. I had to point out that having your own private water supply was not always without problems and I told him about the move into our house in Co. Cork several years ago, which had its own water supply fed from a deep well.
We’d not been in the house long before I discovered the well. Scything away at the long grass a few yards from the back door I uncovered two black plastic pipes disappearing vertically down an 8” steel pipe. Several lumps of grass disappeared downwards too and I wondered what else could fall down an 8” pipe and probably had done in the several years the house had been empty. I carefully cleared several large snails and slugs from inside the pipe they too followed the grass to the bottom..
The water supply was rather brown but this had slowly been clearing, as I’d been told it would do with increased use. I’d drunk a lot of dirty looking, but perfectly safe, drinking water over the years so I forgot about it. Until, that is I noticed a small crack in the steel vessel which regulates the water pressure and was situated in the ruins of one of our outhouses. Inside the crack I could see a rubber bladder repeatedly inflating and deflating as water was pumped into the house. I wondered how soon the crack would open more and the bladder within burst. I decided to call the only likely name in the local paper and hoped my English accent along with my vague description of the problem would not put him off answering the message I left on his answer phone.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. At lunch I enjoyed a leisurely snack only interrupted by a fountain of water suddenly erupting from the outhouse containing the offending pressure vessel. I ran outside and fumbled in the wet for the ‘off’ switch and was rewarded, quite properly, by one of several electric shocks before succeeding in turning the electric off and the fountain subsided.
Soaking wet I headed back towards the house to be greeted by a cheery “Dave Perry?” from a man who introduced himself as; “Peter Downy, water and well engineer”,,,. “What’s the problem” he asked and I showed him how I got wet.
Ten minutes later, a new pressure vessel installed , my thoughts returned to the quality of water. I asked him if he could test the water.
“What for?” he asked, and I told him about the brown water and how I was worried about bacteria and germs in the water.
“How long have ye lived here?” he asked. And I told him several weeks.
“And have ye been well all that time so?” and I informed him that that was the case, nor had any visitor enjoying the water been ill.
“Then there’s nothing wrong with your water is there – what’s the point of sending it away to be tested then?
“But what if a rat, mouse or something else had fallen down the well and was floating in the cold water 100’ below the ground?”.
He came into the kitchen and asked for a clean glass of water which he held up to the light examined it with care and tasted it, announcing it; “Grand water altogether!”.
“Yes but what if there was a rat or mouse down there, how would you know?
“He looked at the water in the glass again and sniffed it. “I’d have smelt it” he announced. “Yes”, I replied, “but the water down there is cold and any rat or mice might not be rotting”. He took another sip and told me the well was fine as he would have tasted any such rat or mouse.
He then told me that the first sign of dead furry things in the well such as mice or rats would be bits of fur and hair pulled off by the pump and it would now be present as little grey bits of fluff in the glass. Our water was perfectly clear!!
He then told me how you would deal with dead animals down wells, by putting sterilising solutions into the well, flushing all the taps, leaving it to sterilise and so on. All information I might someday need, and I absorbed every detail.
So visitors came and went and I told the story to all our English visitors who were used to carefully manufactured water, which in the case of some of my towny friends had been recycled numerous times by their own neighbours.
A couple of years later I found myself in the position of care-taking several neighbouring houses owned by second home, owners from places as far away as America. And so it came about that one such American who owned a grand holiday house a few miles away phoned me up one day after arriving from the states.
“Hi Dave, can you pop over here bud and look at our water there’s a problem?”.
.”What’s the problem?” I enquired.
“There’s bits of grey stuff in the water”.