A national water well corporation will likely be chosen for its low bid of nearly $70,000 to rehabilitate six of the city’s water wells, because local companies can’t carry out the work, said Jeff Crispin, director of water resources for the city.

The Hays City Commission Thursday evening discussed a bid from Texas-based Layne for $67,230 to rehabilitate a handful of the city’s wells to improve their performance.

Five companies, none of them from the area, submitted bids.

“I don’t recognize any of those companies,” said Hays City Commissioner James Meier, speaking during work session of the city commission at City Hall, 1507 Main St. The commissioners are set to vote on the contract Thursday at their regular meeting.

“We’ve used Layne before,” said Crispin.

“They’ve been a big player for a long time,” added City Manager Toby Dougherty.

“But it’s not anybody here in town?” Meier asked. “There’s nobody here that can do this kind of work?”

“Not at this point,” Crispin said. “We’re hearing from a local vendor that they may be able to start doing that, but they don’t have the extensive methods that these companies, such as Layne, can actually do that yet. But in future years they may get the RFP because the intention would be to come back to commission every year with our bids.”

Layne, based in The Woodlands, Texas, has a regional office in Kearney, Neb. Described as a global water management, construction and drilling company, Layne was acquired in 2018 in a $536 million deal by Granite Construction Inc., which trades as GVA on the New York Stock Exchange. The combined corporation has nearly 7,000 employees, according to a Granite press release about the transaction, positioning Granite as a national leader in transportation and water infrastructure markets.

The city used Layne previously in 1998, Crispin said, when the company was Layne Christensen Inc.

The contract, which Crispin originally estimated at $48,000, calls for rehabilitation of two city wells in northwest Hays, another at 16th and Milner streets, and three in the Smoky Well Field near Schoenchen.

“It is our department’s intention, and my intention, to be aggressive with this program moving forward,” Crispin said. “The project sheet was created for 2019 with the intention of potentially completing more wells each year.”

Usage, media and formation all play into how often a well needs rehabilitation, he said.

The city has 26 production wells and six remediation wells. Of the production wells, there are 12 in the Smoky, six in the Dakota and eight in Big Creek.

Over the life of a well, bacteria and minerals in groundwater build up and eventually plug it, says a city explainer document. Screens, gravel pack and formations may get blocked, which inhibits pumping at full capacity, reducing the amount of water brought to the surface.

Rehabilitating a well can extend its life, reduce the amount of electricity consumed for operating it, and lower the cost of production.

“We want to have that maintenance done before it becomes too late and we have serious problems,” Crispin told the commission.

Two city employees from 2014 to 2018 have spent a couple of days on each well, acidizing them and then disinfecting them. The last major rehab by professional contractors was between 1998 and 2007.

The contractor the city hires will establish a baseline at the start of rehabilitation with a performance test to see how efficient the well is pumping and how far below capacity the water is flowing. The contractor will then pull the pump, inspect it, and make repairs as needed.

The contractor also will lower a camera into the well, inspect the screen at the bottom, and clean it off using high-pressure jetting, chemical treating and other mechanical methods.

Once done, the contractor will performance test again, to measure the improvement.

Crispin and his staff chose the wells based on their own initial in-house testing. The city keeps records on each well, including when it was last tested, acidized and cleaned.

“Typically when you get below an 80 percent performance rating, that tells you that you should go out,” Crispin said. “If we can’t get it better than 80 percent, we have to seek other help.”

The city doesn’t use all wells equally.

“Depending on usage, there are some wells that we don’t use much, based on our right, and how that well performs,” Crispin said. “We may use some wells more extensively.”

Wells in the Smoky field are used quite a bit, he said, while city wells not as much.

“So, Jeff, are you saying that those wells have stayed within the parameters of our inspections, that they haven’t needed professional cleaning, or that we’ve chosen not to do professional?” asked City Commissioner Sandy Jacobs.

“We haven’t done the professional cleaning that we probably should have on some of those wells. Our staff does a great job, they spend the time, they go down, they put the acid in the ground, they clean it, they check and make sure,” Crispin said. “If we have a well performing at 60 percent and we got it to go up to 85 percent, that’s a good thing. But we find that if we have those wells that we can’t improve that percentage, and we come back the next year and it’s still 60 percent, we know we can’t do any more to it, so we really need to go out for professional service.”

There’s also a diminishing return on maintenance, said Dougherty.

“You can get a well from 60 to 80 percent maybe for a year, and then you may have to go back and do it again, or you can have it professionally rehabbed and it will be up over 80 percent for several years before you have to start doing that,” Dougherty said.

The rehabilitation process takes about two days for each well, Crispin said.

City Commissioner Ron Mellick asked if the work would be done by the time July rolls around, when water usage is heavier.

Crispin said it wouldn’t.

“We have enough wells that we can shut down wells for a few days,” he said. “Obviously we’re not running all of our production wells at the same time. But as far as doing that during the hotter summer months, we have the capacity. …We let wells rest, based on a program to make sure we’re not pulling from an area too long.”