Vermonters are staying home during the pandemic, and large swaths of the economy have closed down.
But all those people in all those homes are using a lot of water, and lots of household wells are running dry.
“We’ve been busy right along through this whole ordeal,” said Nick Manosh, owner of N.A. Manosh Corp. in Morrisville.
“People aren’t using the bathroom at work. Those lower-production wells are getting hit a little harder and they aren’t able to keep up,” said Jeff Williams, vice president of Jericho-based Spafford & Sons. “There’s been lots of servicing issues. Well pumps going bad, a lot of septic systems or leach fields backing up.”
“A normal house can run on a gallon a minute, but if a toilet runs more than normal, you start to see wells stress out and just not produce enough to keep up with demand,” Manosh said.
The water and septic systems at homes that typically had only four or five people present for parts of the day are suddenly being used 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many are showing the strain.
“If you’ve had trouble in the past,” it’s likely back, Williams said. His crews have mostly been deepening existing wells, but if a situation is dire, some people are deciding to move on completely.
“I got a call today about a well I drilled a number of years ago; they want to replace it with a new one,” Williams said in late April.
The professionals think that, once life returns to normal and people are in and out of the house through the day, the wells will be fine.
“I think the groundwater resources will recover. We’ve had plenty of rain and snowpack and those recent snows,” Williams said.
But until then, Spafford & Sons crews are traveling all over the state to deal with water problems.
“Lately we’ve been working a considerable amount in Washington, Chittenden and Orange counties,” Williams said, with a few jobs in Cambridge and neighboring towns in eastern Lamoille County.
Crews from Manosh have responded to a fair number of calls in Lamoille County over the last six weeks as well, but overall Manosh thinks “the wells held up pretty good in Lamoille County.”
But the story was different elsewhere. Manosh says his crews are responding to five to 10 calls per day across the state — mainly in Chittenden, Franklin and Caledonia counties — for emergency work to deepen or reinvigorate wells.
And, he’s getting the same number of calls for failing septic systems.
“We’re seeing calls all the way from northern New York and New Hampshire, but we just couldn’t get there in time,” Manosh said.
For six weeks in March and April, companies in the business of providing water to homes and disposing of it were allowed to do only emergency work; no drilling wells or installing new septic systems.
But Gov. Phil Scott has begun to open the faucet for aspects of the economy, so it’s back to more regular business for Manosh and Spafford & Sons.
“I expect new-home construction to start up next week,” Williams said, and crews can drill new wells again — with some new safety practices.
“We had to go through COVID training last Thursday, myself and my supervisors,” Manosh said. “We’re taking all the precautionary measures and giving our people the proper protection while out in the field.”