State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Up (roofs) and Down (wells)

Today went a lot better than yesterday.  Just as well that I forgot my camera so that there are fewer pictures to document it. We said goodbye to Nano, Humayun and Ellie as they went back to Dhaka.  Their extra hands helped a lot.  And Ellie was a big attraction for all the kids.  Adults, too.  She was invited to tea at a neighbor’s house.

After they left and we had breakfast, Dhiman and I installed the solar panel for the GPS on the roof.  Went perfectly, but no picture to record yet another interesting Bangladeshi ladder.  Meanwhile, Scott and Scott worked on cementing in more of the wells.  While I was on the roof, they did the 60m well and everything went fine.  The problem came when we got to the 80m well.  After pouring in the grout, we lowered the cable.  It stuck a little ways short.  Pulled it out, shortened the chain and it stopped at the same place.  Dhiman suggested flushing the cement and starting over.  We decided to first try to free the blockage with the small PVC pipe. We had to slowly put 80m of PVC in 10 ft. sections back into the hole.  Instead of freeing the blockage, the pipe got stuck in the bottom of the hole.  When we pulled, a pipe joint parted and we left ¾ of the pipe in the hole.  End of the line.  Should have listened to Dhiman. We had to abandon the well.  Down to five.  Later in the evening, a local driller tried to fish the pipe out, but by then the cement had hardened.

Meanwhile, the deep well was supposed to be completed overnight, but the bottom of the well was still clogged with sand that collapsed into the hole.  They worked on flushing it out and this continued all day. In the end they decided to let the well rest overnight, so the sediment could settle.  We can’t afford to lose the deep well or the time delay much longer. But with the drilling done, except for flushing the deep well, the drillers packed up. They left one member of their team and the noisy pump to keep trying to clean the well.

Scott N. and Scott D. cutting chain to weight the cable and fix it to grout.

We still had the 100m well to do.  Scott N. figured out the problem with the 80m hole was it had not been flushed since the day before; mud in the hole floated to the top of the cement and blocked the chain.  We need to flush each well just before cementing the cable.  We did that it worked.  We finished after 9 PM.  The problem with doing something new is we are figuring things out as we go along.  Dhiman, and Saddam and Sean, the two Dhaka University students working on the drilling samples, stayed to help, missing their bus to Dhaka.  They have to follow the drillers to the Khulna site where they will start the next set of holes.  Our driver, Babu, wolfed his dinner and drove them over the bad road to the main road.  There, they could find more buses to Dhaka.

Anowar and Moktar complete the rebar frame. Our homemade PVD fittings cover the cable.

Today was a complete contrast despite our much smaller crew.  Muktab joined us yesterday, as we need a Dhaka University student to translate.  However, we miss Dhiman’s knowledge of drilling. The local contractors completed the rebar frames, adjusted each to the proper height of the wells and poured the cement pads.  Our homemade PVC and duct tape liners to decouple the well from the cement top worked perfectly.  We actually had a break in the day while waiting for more cement to be bought.  We used to have a real lunch for the first time in Bangladesh.  We walked into town and our remaining crew of 5 (the two Scotts, Muktab, Babu and myself) had lunch at a local restaurant.  We ate Bangladeshi style, using our hands without silverware.  If we looked strange before, we were much more so with our terrible technique.  At dinner two of us tried it again; getting a little better, less rice on the table and floor.  One of the Scotts used a fork.

The iron caps for the wells being constructed at a local workshop still didn’t work, but we supplied a new design we think will.  Then as we were about to switch to working on the GPS, came news the deep well was almost ready.  We prepared the cable and cement.  With the problems of well collapse and flushing, we had to be ready to pour the moment they stopped pumping water down the well.  No fooling around with connecting PVC pipes, we simply sawed off the driller’s hose as soon as they turned off the pump and started pouring cement into it.  It went down much more slowly than any other well, but it had to fight the pressure of a much deeper well.  After anxious moments as everyone gathered around the well, it finally started going faster.  Success (and I was only splashed by the grout a few times).  Then came pulling the 767 feet of hose out of the well by hand.  It took forever, but we didn’t care, optimism had returned.  Next, running the fiber optic cable to the bottom. Again, success.  Scott N. could feel it hit the grout properly.  Secure everything and done for the day at 7 PM.  And the incessant noise of the pump is over and quiet reigns. Tomorrow, Scott D. will have the 3-hour job of shortening the cable from its 1000 foot length.  The end is in sight for Jamalganj.

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