Price City Council Votes to Continue Drilling on Second Emma Park Well

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Drilling will continue on the second of two exploratory water wells near Emma Park. The decision was made by the Price City Council in a special meeting conducted Wednesday.

As Mayor Joe Piccolo explained, the meeting was held in order to discuss the work that had been done up to that point, analyze the findings, and develop a strategy going forward. The council was assisted in this discussion by Dr. David Hansen, an engineer, who gave the council a presentation on the progression of the wells.

Hansen explained that work on the first well, E.P. 1, had stopped a little more than a week ago, after it was discovered that results indicated the faults that are a good sign of water had been blocked by mudstone and siltstone. The sealing of these faults had resulted in much lower flow rates than had been hoped for.

Since then, work had intensified on the second well, E.P. 2, and samples had shown the fractures were not sealed to the extent drillers had seen in E.P. 1. But, after reaching a depth of roughly 1,700 feet, drillers had encountered conditions that the drill they were using was not intended for.

Hansen explained that in order to continue drilling, the Layne Christensen Company felt they would need to bring in a drill that uses drilling fluid, or “mud”, to continue to the target depth of 2,300 feet. As a result, the company had submitted a proposal to Price City regarding the associated costs.

This proposal, Hansen said, was a concern, and had made it imperative that the Council determine the next step. The drilling company’s proposal included clauses that had not been in the initial agreement, including requiring the city to pay for recovery time and materials if drilling tools were lost in the process of reaching the target depth.

Hansen said the changes would result in increased costs of at least $133,000, and if tools were lost, could balloon to over $211,000. Considering the costs, and the fact that they could not be certain that the well would produce the water they had been hoping for, Hansen told the Council that he believed that moving forward would be “high risk”.

Earlier in the meeting, the Mayor had expressed his confidence in the council members’ ability to work together, saying, “We’ve always worked together as a team, and we want everyone’s input to develop a strategy.” And, after Hansen’s presentation, the Council had to do just that.

The Council considered the funding, the water rights being available, and a strategy to limit the City’s financial risk if tools were lost. Finally, Councilmember Richard Tatton made a motion to continue the drilling, while directing staff to negotiate with the drilling company overВ  the clauses in the contract regarding loss of tools.

Councilmember Jeanne McEvoy seconded the motion, which passed 4 votes to 1, with Councilmember Rick Davis casting the lone dissenting vote.

After the meeting, Price City Public Works Director Gary Sonntag said it was likely that staff would contact the drilling company on Thursday, and he expected it could be two weeks before drilling would continue on the second well.

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