Hands up everyone
Who rather than thinking about their own gardens, immediately went on the web to look up how to make wells properly, or HSE statistics relating to unsupported excavation collapses?
I was on holiday last week, and as is the local custom, I took the chance to disconnect completely from cyberspace, shut down the PC, and retire to the alfresco chillax zone of the Special Project Bureau's mountaintop headquarters for a few well-deserved beers. Mercifully, I don't suffer from internet withdrawal jitters or …
You'll find that Health and Safety regs over here in Spain are somewhat different, to say the least.
Every 23rd June they have a festival called Noche de San Juan, which involves a bonfire, fireworks and general cavorting on the beach (at least where I live) into the early hours. Separating us from said fire-related entertainment is a mere strip of red and white barrier tape.
In previous years there have been no problems. However this year, the firework launching tube thing (I'm no expert) fell over, with the result that fireworks were being launched horizontally across the beach. In fact I got hit in the back of the neck by one of them. Once righted, the display continued and there was no permanent damage thankfully! Later on, people dance through the cinders of the bonfire.
Would I change any of it? No way. I can't imagine the same fun being had whilst stood hundreds of metres away from the display.
Meanwhile, back on topic, good work guys!
We have the same sort of thing here in France just north of the border.
Being near Canigou we have our fire in the car park and in the 20 years I've been here we have only had one case of someone getting a burn when jumping over the fire and even he agreed it was his own fault by taking a table cloth with him.
Not always a good idea having proper mains outlets in the bathrooms.
I used to be the IT Manager for a holiday resort on the Costa del Sol. I went out to the resort once and the accounts girls were complaining that for the previous few days when they tried to print to their deskjet printer it would physically switch itself off (which I didn't believe until I saw it for myself) and switching on the computers would put a terrible buzzing on the phones.
I suspected an earthing fault somewhere in their office, a not uncommon problem in Spain, so i called our head of maintenance. He brought up one of these plugs that has lights on it to show faults on the mains, when he plugged it in it lit up like a Christmas tree. He quickly ushered us all out of the office.
It turned out Unelco the local elecricity supplier had been doing some work on the block the offices were in, and had somehow managed to cross phase the supply. For 5 days we had had 415V coming out of the sockets in our offices, reception and 15 holiday apartments. In those 5 days the only device that had blown was one guest's hair dryer in one of the bathrooms.
@Richard Mason, 415V is not a good idea no matter where the mains outlet is, bathroom or not. Your case is not an argument against mains outlets in bathrooms. Considering that just about every other country in the world bar the UK has sockets in the bathroom and there aren't millions of people getting shocked then we can safely say that it isn't a major safety failure. There is such a thing as personal responsibility. The UK government is keen on removing that from people's brains and making them think that the state and it's regulations will keep them safe even if they do stupid things.
in the early 70s-80s, Belgium had this insane requirement to fuse the "0" of a 380V star setup as well. As you draw 220 from 0 and a "leg" of the the star, blowing the fuse in the null circuit meant that devices were in series across 380V(*). If one was a heavy device (say, an electric heater) and one light (for instance a radio), the light device basically got the full 380V whack and blew up.
I think they eventually figured out that there would be fewer fires if they gave up on that idea..
(*) 3 phase power shifts phase so you don't get 440V..
The regs regarding electrical outlets in Zone 2 are taken directly from EU regulatory directives (in turn taken directly from some ISO agency tasked with standardising such things). Regulatory directives are not passed through member-state governments and go straight on the books without even examination by the civil service, let alone parliament. The only oversight any UK body has on them is when the IET writes them in a form suitable for inclusion in BS7671 and that won't change anything except formatting or internal references to other parts of the regs.
The regs don't ban electrical outlets from bathrooms, believe it or not. They ban mains outlets within Zones 0 and 1 and require outlets within Zone 2 to be IPX4 or better (that is, protected against splash and mechanical ingress). Outside of zone 2 you can place any number of outlets you like. It's just that most modern bathrooms don't extend much beyond the dimensions specified for zone 2 due to the recent practice of building houses so small that a hamster could feel cramped.
As I recall, all mains electrical products must be designed and proven to handle voltages in excess of 415V without posing any risk to anyone attempting to operate them. Devices are allowed to fail safely (i.e. burn out, blow fuses, trip cutouts etc.), but they may also carry on normal operation. These gold-plated safety standards, eh?
Ah, that's nothing. My parents have a house in a small town called Cantoria, in the mountains of Almeria. Every January they have a three day festival in honour of Saint Anton. On the first day they fire fireworks into the town square – while the townspeople huddle together and watch, presumably excited by the prospect of being hit by one. On the second day, the 'carratilleros' (rough translation: 'firework throwers') walk the streets throwing roman candles at the houses. And drinking wine. To make sure the emergency services don't spoil the fun they light huge bonfires at the major road intersections.
It's not all bad though. To make sure the children don't get hurt, they have their own time slot for firework throwing; the kids can throw fireworks between 8 and 11pm, which is when the crazy drunken adults come out.
On the third, anticlimactic, day, the town takes the saintly effigies to the chapel on the hill, and firecrackers and rockets are set off around them. No real risk of injury, except to the eardrums.
I think I may go back next year...
Well, me and my two younger sisters did.
One crisp October when I was about 15, my dad decided we needed a new dry well as an extension of our sewage system before the snow fell. Naturally, he was too busy to do much digging, so it fell to us kids to get the job done.
The soil on our lot was mostly sugar sand, which made it easy to dig in. It had just enough clay in it to stick together, thankfully, as you'll find out in a minute.
We started by dropping an iron ring on the ground that was 8 feet in diameter. Using your basic #2 shovels, a wheelbarrow, buckets, a block and tackle, and a long ladder, we started digging inside the circumference and underneath the ring so it could settle into the ground.
As the ring dropped below the surface, we started adding interlocking bricks that were designed to fit on it. Each one foot high brick had a notch cut out of the bottom so the sewage would eventually leach out through the holes.
8 feet and courses of brick later, we stopped adding bricks and kept digging. At 13 feet (4 meters) we finally stopped, climbed out of the hole, and had a concrete cover lowered into place.
That last 5 feet of digging while the sand occasionally slumped in was a little exciting, to say the least! :-) We learned to stand in the middle as much as possible to avoid having that cold sand dumped on our back. Still, it could have been a lot worse. The clay in the sand held it together just enough to prevent anything like a major cave in.
Just goes to show what can be done with a little sweat and creativity when you have to save a buck or two. ;-)
A Spade? Luxury! We used to have to get out of the well at six o'clock in the morning, clean the well, eat a handful of hot gravel, work twenty hour day digging holes with our face for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would thrash us to sleep with a broken bottle, if we were lucky.
And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.
Yep - whilst one may argue that some health & safety laws are there in order to counteract the threat of lawsuits should anything go wrong (and one may also argue that this culture is more attributable to the rise of blood-sucking ambulance chasers than eager bureaucrats, despite popular opinion), excavation support and temporary retaining walls in deep holes are definitely not used for arse-covering legal reasons!
I'd always wondered about something similar (but for rain-water storage rather than a well), but starting with the concrete rings at ground-level, and just digging out inside them, and a little bit under the bottom edge as it slides down. Probably need a larger diameter than used here, and couldn't use a machine......
Would it work - how far down would you get before the rings got stuck?
Brunel used a similar idea, I believe, for the Thames Tunnel although on a slightly larger scale:
"The shaft, from whence the Tunnel works are carried on, was built at Rotherhithe in the form of a tower, 50 feet in diameter, 42 feet in height, and 3 feet thick, at about 150 feet from the edge of the wharf, and it was sunk into its position by excavating the earth within."
"From An explanation of the works of the tunnel under the Thames from Rotherhithe to Wapping (1836)."
Yeah. You get a cast iron ring with a sharp cutting blade on the bottom and a lip wide enough to hold a layer of bricks. You put it on the ground, dig out the inside and let the weight of the ring push it down. Build a layer of bricks on the ring and dig again. You end up with a lined well as deep as you like.
That's a fairly standard technique for constructing a well. How deep you would go would depend on the local geology, but assuming that the superficial deposits are reasonably stable, wells made with this technique are often carried down to bedrock.
If the caisson gets stuck you can just narrow the diameter and carry on....(assumes you have a ready supply of different diameter concrete rings)
Not just building regs that get ignored. Anti-smoking regs, tax regs, speeding regs - all get treated with the same degree of respect. There does appear to be a correlation between the length of time since a country was last under autocratic rule and it's native population's willingness to go by the rule book.
Indeed and Spain takes it to absolutely hilarious levels. A couple of years ago I had an American friend who was living illegally in Spain while working as an English teach for the Spanish Interior Ministry. She even showed me her building access card and parking pass to prove it.
That'd be why in Spain your tax return is automatically calculated for you from data they get straight from banks, employers, etc... and changing any of it automatically gets you put under the microscope. That said, the tax return isn't always calculated right. Who said Big Brother was perfect?
My parents' well is over 150m. deep and was built using the same kind of kit oil companies use to drill their wells on land, so this was an interesting read. (My folks' well is so deep that the lights dim noticeably when the pump is running.)
As for the hard-hats and hi-vis vests... this is Spain, for Cliff's sake! It's not a nation particularly prone to dull, grey, overcast days, lashings and lashing of rain, and muddy worksites. Anyone who thinks one size fits all when it comes to safety needs their head examined.
Exactly what is it the hard-hat would have protected them from? Most of the digging was done by a bloke in a big excavator while the others were standing back (and, presumably, taking the photos). The excavator's driver is already sitting in a cabin that provides protection. Anything that can crush that isn't going to be stopped by a bit of cheap plastic sitting on the guy's head and making him drip with sweat.
Once the hole was dug, the tubes were lifted into place. That's the only time when a hard-hat might have actually come in useful, but you don't need to lift those rings up high into the air: they only need to be clear of the ground while travelling towards the hole. Anyone who can't see a great big lump of concrete travelling level with their bollocks over such a short distance is already a health and safety hazard in their own right and shouldn't be allowed out without a trained guide dog.
Besides, a bit of ABS plastic strapped to your head is unlikely to be much use against a 1m. concrete ring travelling through the air towards your noggin. Hard-hats were invented for building sites were you might get hit on the nut by a passing brick, wrench, or other small items. Drop a fucking concrete slab on someone with a hard-hat and you'll find the hard-hat won't have been much help.
Standing in a 9-foot hole MAY run the risk of a cave-in, but that also depends on the area's geology and certainly isn't a given. If you were to try digging a well like that in, say, Southwark, or Borough, (which are mostly built on swamp), you'd have had to brace the sides first to stop the mud and slime from oozing back into the hole. If your ground is mostly stone or rock, you'd likely have to dig very, very badly, or quite a bit further down, for a cave-in to be a statistically significant risk. It's rock; people used to live in caves carved right out of the stuff!
Hi-vis vests also only make sense where visibility is a frequent problem. If you were digging a well in the middle of a motorway, sure, you'd want something nice, bright, shiny and very, very hard to miss while doing so. But building a 9-foot well in less than a day, in broad daylight, under a burning sun? Not so much.
A few years ago, I was berated for not wearing steel-capped boots. This would have made a lot more sense if the work site didn't consist entirely of open, muddy trenches for foundations. I was working as a land surveyor's assistant and there was literally no construction at all yet: just holes in the ground. There was some big digging equipment, but (a) I'm not blind, (b) I'm not deaf either, and (c) I'm having a hard time working out what, exactly, some thin steel in the toes of my boots would have done had a JCB decided to drive over them, because there was literally sod all else that posed any kind of risk to me.
And, yes, I had the high-vis vest and hard-hat on. But it's bloody hard to justify buying a brand new pair of steel-capped boots for my large feet—size 14—for just a couple of day's work.
The UK's H&S culture is fundamentally built on the premise of insulting our intelligence and common sense.
Most people are NOT interested in killing themselves. Give newbies a lecture on the potential hazards and risks, yes, but stop wasting time attempting to create a 100% risk-free planet. It's not possible, it's not efficient, and it sucks all the fun out of life.
> if there'd been any chance of entombment.
One of the daftest things I've ever read on the register. How would he know there was no chance? Doesn't everyone who dies doing such a thing think there's no chance? Don't they all think "It won't happen to me, I'll be fine"?
Many moons ago I offended a Greek taxi driver by putting my seat belt on, probably questioning his manliness and that of his father and his father before him. The trip itself was sort of like one of those car chase scenes in a Bourne film and re-assured me of his driving capabilities. I'm sure if there were any chance of a crash he would have insisted that I wear the seat belt.
> Exactly what is it the hard-hat would have protected them from?
Something, anything, falling from above. And there's plenty potential candidates there.
See that wall there? The one that the hole is now slightly underneath the foundation of? Don't you think that is a sizeable risk right there?
That could quite easily result in something falling, or even a partial collapse.
Many times I think the hard-hat requirements are to keep you from bonking your head on some partially-finished piece of construction. More to protect you when you crash into something than the other way around.
Ever run around a jobsite, only to catch your head on a low overhang, or on said end-loader that just happened to be right where you don't expect it to be?
What good construction project hasn't been started, completed, or celebrated with a few cold ones?
"Many times I think the hard-hat requirements are to keep you from bonking your head on some partially-finished piece of construction. More to protect you when you crash into something than the other way around."
50% true. The other 50% is to protect your head from small falling objects. You realize this when you're working in a shipyard and crawling around in torpedo tubes in the dark with odd (*) protrusions or wandering around outside whilst people are chucking things around the Bridge fin. I'd not worn the hat consistently until then. I did afterwards.
(*) They may be odd to me but they're probably not to the Naval Architect. But that says a lot about Naval Architects!
A counter scenario: the JCB driver gets out of his protected cab, and does he remember to put on his hard hat?
These things aren't totally senseless, but there is a lot to be said for better thinking, all round. Look at all those TV shows about cowboy builders: they're so careless about the work they do, I doubt they'd be able to make an informed judgement about safety.
100% agree. I'm actually more likely to fall over my feet in unfamiliar heavy steel capped boots than in my regular trainers. I even know a few construction site managers who agree non-building skills visiting techs/engineers etc probably are a bigger hazard with steelies on.
John Bannister in 1799, discussing the profession of well sinking
'. . . These accidents render this profession extremely hazardous, but as the people who embark in it entertain but little thoughts of a future period, and since the chief end of their pursuits is the obtaining of a liberal supply of drink, if this end be answered they bestow little attention to the hazards of their profession . . . '
As an inveterate bodger with the wounds-from-obvious-to-everyone-but-the-craftsman-consequences to prove it, I applaud this well construction project and look forward to the inevitable subsidence reports that will follow as the damp ground oozes into that to these old eyes rather overly-coarse rock fill. I expect there were several light injuries that the report glossed over, such as blood blisters from fingers trapped between pipe sections and the odd bruise from catching the backhoe bucket in the noggin. I would encourage the author to not edit in this fashion in the future.
In my neck of the former potato farm people hearing my moans of distress regarding flooding often encourage me to install "dry wells" for rain drainage, ignoring the fact that within one minute of a light drizzle the local water table has risen to approximately ground level and that for the last decade we have had a 12 month rainy season not at all due to Global Warming. My house is more properly considered a barge and would have floated off years ago if not for the basement, or as I call it, the bilge.
Said dry wells are usually made by purchasing one (1) 50 gallon oil drum (empty, clean) with no top from your local toxic waste disposal specialist, digging an hole in the garden, putting in a couple of inches of gravel, then the upside-down oil drum which has a hole precision cut (usually with a lump hammer and cold-chisel) to accept a downspout run-off pipe, then burying the evidence before anyone gets a good look at it.
Only on Long Island could people think that burying rainwater was a good idea.
Before I got older and saner and hired people to do a proper job of things, I had a problem in the sewage vault by my house. If you don't know what a sewage vault is, it's a 16 foot deep pit about 10 feet square PIT that the house gray water lines dump into on the top, and connects with the city sewer on the bottom, with valves on the bottom side so if the sewer fills to capacity (which used to be frequent in Chicago before they replaced 110 year old sewer pipes), you don't have a geyser coming out of your storm drains and showers.
Well, one day the valve broke. Pumping out the water wasn't too bad (fortunately this isn't SEWAGE sewage, that goes out a different route), but when the vault was finally empty, I said "someone's going to have to go down there and wrench out the valve, aren't they?".
Like Lester, the folks all gave me a blank look meaning it was gonna be ME climbing down an extension latter through a 3 foot wide access hatch, down into the nastiest stench I have ever experienced. I was just smart enough to demand that we rig up a fan to blow fresh air down the hatch, making it survivable, or I think I would have passed out before I got the first bolt off.
And then after getting the valve back from the welding shop, I had to go down there AGAIN. A few years after that we had the whole thing replaced with an automated system and a guy who comes out every year to do maintenance. The joys of owning your own home and being young and stupid!
Yes, I do travel at high speeds in a tin box. I've also done it on Kawasakis, Suzukis and Triumphs for years - probably a darn sight quicker than you've been doing it in your tin box.
But then, I do it in leathers and a lid - my equivalent of shoring, a hard hat, etc.
I've also spent plenty of time working on sites and "backyard projects".
There *is* H&S bullshit, no doubt about that. A high-vis jacket on a wee project like that is pointless. Wearing a hard-hat when you're, I dunno, tiling a floor or something, is just stupid.
But taking precautions such as not standing in the bottom of an unshored, relatively loose-sided looking, undercut foundations at the top, just dug pit, which has already got water leaching down it is *not* bullshit.
That comes down, the man dies. No question. And it happens - plenty.
Sadly a friend of mine learned the hard way about safety on building sites. Don't think he'd be thinking "bullshit" right now either.
The on-the-road equivalent of standing in that pit is *not* you driving in your tin box. It's far more akin to you standing in between the lanes on the motorway.
warm climate (mostly)
lots of butch mates down the taverna
forefront of space exploration
sideline in writing articles for a well-known website
Who do I have to sleep with in order to get a job like this? (N.B. Anyone who answers "Orlowski" will be sent back in time in a handy TARDIS to suffer at the hands of the Moderatrix!)
In the UK, an abstraction license is required to permit taking water out of the environment, be it a massive hydroelectric scheme or a pokey wee hole in the ground like this. Isn't Spain subject to the Water Framework Directive as well, and as the area suffers from drought, wouldn't this kind of kind of abstraction be highly regulated?
Not off the top of my head...
n the UK you can pump up to 20 m3/day without a licence - assuming that it's there to be had and that your pumping doesn't adversely effect your neigbours (although if it did that would be a civil issue).
If pumping less than 20 m3/day about the only requirement on you is to lodge a geological record if you go below 15 metres.
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... my Great Grandfather dug a well "5 foot square and an honest 30 foot deep, with a two foot sump in the North West corner". His diary, on my lap as I type, goes on to describe the "otherwise useless first cuts of the Redwood logs, flat side to the walls" that he used as bracing (with hand drawn diagrams), and that the sump was for the hand-pump that my Great Grandmother operated to keep the well dry as he dug. He reported "a good twenty foot of water" about three days after the bottoming out entry ...
Fast-forward 130 years ... In 1999 the water level was still ten feet from the surface, but that particular well was only 14 feet deep. There was no trace of the bracing, although my eldest Uncle remembered seeing it as a small child. The visible sides were still square, though. We used the well for irrigation & the loo. Every now & then, a small critter managed to commit suicide by drowning, and thus cause the water to stink, and the water had a lot of iron in it, which stained the plumbing & allowed the growth of iron-fixing bacteria, which also stink. So I decided to do an update.
Taking G-grandad's diary at face value, I located a 30-foot long by 4-foot diameter corrugated plastic culvert. I drilled 1.5 inch holes into it at roughly 1 foot intervals over the lower 15 feet. Then I wrapped the bottom half in two layers of landscape felt, separated by a 1-inch PVC "boot". After getting it poised over the well, and with a good supply of 3-5 inch river rock and 3/4-1 inch pebbles on hand, I started agitating the bottom with a two-man gas-powered auger (post-hole digger), with a large homemade "paint mixer" at the end of an extendable shaft.
I pumped the generated muck out with a trash pump. Took three days. After the first day, I was terrified that the walls would collapse ... I got lucky. The well is, indeed, "five by five, and an honest 30-foot", with a 2 foot sump in the corner. I put a foot of pebbles in the sump, and dropped a 2" PVC pipe with a brass strainer into it, then topped it up with more pebbles. I can both aerate the water to precipitate out out the naturally occurring iron, and inject chlorine from the bottom up if I need to "shock the well" using the 2" pipe.
Next came 3 feet of 3-5 river rock. Then I lowered the culvert, and shoveled in the rest of the river rock between culvert & earth. Naturally, I didn't have enough rock ... After getting enough to fill it to within about 6 inches of the top, and to put about a foot into the bottom of the culvert, I sealed the outside edge with concrete leaving about three feet of culvert exposed.
Added a hinged lid & lock, a bit of plumbing, a Sears 1.5HP pump & a largish pressure tank, and we're back in business with a 19 foot long, 4 foot diameter store of water. As in G-granpa's day, I can empty it & it'll be full again in under three days. With the aerator, the water is clear & clean. I haven't had to use the chlorine option (yet). The Lab at Berkeley has reported the water fit for human consumption every year for the last dozen years. It tastes sweet, kind of like Hetch Hetchy water.
Beer, because it makes good beer, too :-)
I have no need of a well. Where I live we have too much water. First I'd start with a well, then keep digging and digging, extra rooms, tunnels to other places, need to keep it secret. But where to put all that earth?
A bloke along the street from me has a huge underground "romper room" in his back garden. He is a musician, so he and his mates can go wild in there and the neighbours in our street of unassuming 1930's semi's hear and know nothing.
The Portuguese builder you use that is.
There are many similar wells around my area of the Algarve (yes, El Reg does seem to hire people who live in warm climates with lots of cold beer etc) and they all have another concrete ring or stone walls coming up above ground. To thyree foot or so.
It's to stop the kiddies and mutts etc falling in you see?
Something else that does worry me though. The "traditional" picture of a well. You know, in the Janet and John stories. OK, so round brickwork up to waist level. Two upright beams supporting the roller carrying the rope and bucket. And then a little roof over the top.
Why does anyone want to keep rain out of a well?
The Atacama desert may be one of the driest places on earth. But when it rains, it comes in torrents.
The ALMA observatory was also affected by a recent snowstorm.
I will take my raincoat.
Leave Well Alone
Now for Penfold:
All's well that ends well.
Where there's a well, there's a way.
Well I never.
Avast ye lubbers! The white well!
Well, well, well.
Get well soon.
[Does that make you] the Prince of Wells?
If [you] found it occupied by a large yellow and black striped insect would it have been the Well of the Wasp?
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