Family Business, Passion, and Wisconsin Well Water
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
We are featuring a recent interview with Tom Van de Yacht, owner of Groundsource, Inc. He is asked about how the family well drilling company began, the importance of water, and how every Wisconsin well requires experience and care.
Q: What was your first exposure to the business?
Tom: I grew up in the business, so I have been around it my entire life. Growing up in a small business you have a different mindset. When you are presented with a problem you need to find a solution. There is no one else around to help. Ground Source has been around since 1963.
My grandfather purchased a well drilling business in 1963, (looking to give two of his sons a job.) It’s not like they were big visionaries, they were looking to start out in business. (I began with an environmental drilling business, this taught us to focus on a quality end result) I went off and did some environmental work then came back. (We diversified into geothermal drilling during the recession of 2008, this taught us how to increase efficiency.)
Q: Do we as a society tend to take our water supply for granted?
Tom: I think we do. Especially up here in Wisconsin where it’s abundant. In many areas in the country there is no water to speak of and we expect what we have here to be perfect. Oftentimes it’s not the quantity, and we have that, but it’s the quality.
Water needs to be treated in many instances to get it to standards people won’t complain about. Yes, we have an abundant supply of water, so it is not given any attention until there is a problem. Other areas of the country have very little water, it is then that people appreciate it. There is a saying, you know the value of water when it is gone. Very true.
Q: And when it’s gone, it’s gone.
Tom: That’s how serious we have to be about preserving what we have. They say you realize the value of water once it’s gone. That thought process goes a long way. Water is something we expect on demand. But if there is a pump outage or anything that affects you getting your water supply, people need to get it fixed immediately. There’s no worse feeling than being without your water.
Q: How can Ground Source help a homeowner?
Tom: A well is not just a hole in the ground. It is a highly regulated, researched and engineered asset that is installed by highly trained crews We deal with residential well water. It’s our job to get you the well that’s right for your needs and of course works correctly. We don’t install treatment. There’s another huge market out there that does that, but we provide your water source.
It’s important to realize not every property is serviced by your village or city. You would call us and we’d look at the lot and help determine which is right for your needs. We’ll look at the geology, research DNR special casing or well requirements. However, different properties have different needs, it’s not a one-fits-all situation.
Wisconsin has a very diverse geology. Bedrock is at the surface in Door County, so extra well casing is required to obtain safe water. Door County has bedrock at the surface, you do not have soil to filter the water before it enters the rock. Soil is a natural filter that cleans water before it enters the bedrock. Without the natural filter, water is more susceptible to being unsafe. The DNR mandates extra well casing to mitigate this. Outagamie County requires extra casing due to naturally occurring arsenic. Each area has unique regulations.
Q: Don’t most people associate wells with a rural area or a farm?
Tom: You’d be surprised. A lot of small areas that have a lot of houses are working with wells. Some have sewer service, others have a septic system. Surprisingly, 38-percent of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for its water supply.
Q: Is there such a thing as an ‘average well?”
Tom: We have such diverse geology in NE Wisconsin that the term average does not apply. Due to water quality issues the DNR regulates the depth of wells in many areas. This can change from one road to the next. When we provide a well estimate we research the area by taking into account DNR maps, existing well geology and our experience. We are happy to provide an accurate well estimate. But mostly, it depends on the area.
There are some municipalities with mandatory requirements and suggested best practices. The DNR covers those areas around the state. In certain areas very little is required. We look to see if there are extra levels of nitrates and other issues. That informs us as to whether it requires an extra steel casing to make things safe. Manitowoc County is an area we see the elevated levels of nitrates.
As in anything else, price varies, depending on the situation, it can be very subjective. Some people worry more about the house having granite countertops rather than good water sources. It’s something to think about.
Q: How is it determined where to put the well on the property?
Tom: We are subject to what the DNR codes says. A well needs to be at least 25 ft. from the septic tank and 50 ft. from soil absorption unit. Typically a front or side yard are good options. Some counties in Wisconsin have a high level of arsenic and the DNR will mandate the depth of casing, a special type.
Q: If we accept each well is different, therefore each cost could be different, what kind of price range are we talking for a well in the range between 120 ft. to 600 feet and what’s the lifespan?
Tom: I’d say you’re looking at a low of $8,000 and up to $20,000, but I’ve seen it higher.
As far as the lifespan, a well should last 50 years, less with lower water quality. When your well goes in, we must follow the DNR well code and it’s highly regulated. The local county may have some requirements. There will also be the issue of where the well goes on the property, how that is going to relate to sewer and electric.
Q: Once you decide where the well goes, what then?
Tom: There’s a lot of planning involved when it comes to the other utilities. The deepest utility goes in first, which is the water. Then you deal with the sewer and electrical. A lot of this is done by the builders, a general consensus as to where things will go. The most experienced builders will work off a site plan and they’d discuss everything up front.
Q: As a homeowner, what would you say to someone that is apprehensive about having a well drilled for them?
Tom: If someone is apprehensive about having a well, they have either never had one or had an old well that was not maintained. A well will provide the same quantity as city water. The added benefit is you do not pay a water bill. City water goes through a lot of water treatment before it reaches your home. Water quality is subjective. You can have water treatment installed to make your water better than city water. You have the freedom to use your well as you desire.
Q: Why is Ground Source the company to call?
Tom: I always suggest you work with a business that has been around a while, earned a solid reputation. At any given time our crew is working with a million dollars of equipment on a job. Our company employs registered and licensed crews to do the work, something the DNR requires.
What we do is an art and a science at the same time. It’s a business that requires trust from people and we get very few new competitors. Normally we get our work through the builder and word of mouth plays a large role. There are times we never work directly with the homeowner, and there are other times where we prefer to talk with them, alleviate problems and concerns if they have questions or concerns. We want to put them at ease and we are happy to provide free estimates to more accurately fine tune your well cost.