• Spinning Augers and Pounding Spoons… Part 2

  • This month’s blog continues our discussion of some of the problems that consultants can inadvertently create with our drilling contractors. Thanks again to my friends at CMT Drilling, Landshark Drilling and Altech Drilling for their input. When consultants are aware of some of the problems to avoid, we can collectively achieve better results and see fewer issues when conducting subsurface drilling investigations.

    Be Reasonable and Listen
    The driller is an expert with their drill rig, and they should be keenly aware of its abilities and limitations. Drilling involves operation of heavy equipment and potentially dangerous machinery, sometimes in a hazardous environment.   A consultant’s failure to listen to a driller’s concerns regarding any safety issues, accessing borehole locations, or potentially damaging equipment; can potentially lead to expensive drill extrication or repairs at best, or to injury or death in the worst case scenario. Both the consultant and driller should communicate and be reasonable in their expectations. Any safety or access concerns should be addressed well before the drilling date.

    Don’t go Changing…
    Significant or sudden changes to the scope of drilling in the field are generally a poor idea. In addition to increasing frustration for all affected parties; such un-announced changes can lead to problems with inadequate coverage for utility locates, deficiencies in equipment or supplies (i.e. not enough augers or well supplies to complete deeper test holes), and scheduling delays not just for your project but for the driller and their other clients and projects. Another common source of delay can occur when a consultant sends inexperienced field staff to supervise a drilling project, yet fails to provide that junior staff with readily available guidance from more senior staff members. It is important that junior staff get an opportunity to gain experience, and that consultants provide suitable direction and oversight for their juniors; but it is not productive to hold up drilling every 15 minutes to check with the office on sampling depth, auger refusal, well screen depths, etc. Ideally the consultant will realize the value of sending experienced staff to train and mentor their new people, even if it adds slightly to project costs.

    Its all about Mutual Respect
    If you have conducted enough drilling investigations, or if you have experienced first hand the joys of handling mud-caked hollow stem augers in knee-deep snow at -20C (trust me – its not as much fun as it sounds), you will know that drillers have grueling schedules and a demanding physical job. It really goes a long way for the consultant to treat their drillers well and with respect. I always make a point of buying coffee or tea, or bringing an icy cooler of drinking water on hot days. When it can be done safely, I will offer to help out – sometimes this is simply by bringing coffee or fetching lunch, other times I will even haul augers or bags of well sand and bentonite (still doing this occasionally - at my age). If you are going to offer to ‘help out’ make sure the driller is OK with this, don’t get in the way and don’t ever compromise safety. When its almost dark, and the consultant says they need ”just one or two more boreholes” they fail to consider the driller still has to return to their shop after 10 to 12 hours of really hard work, unload, decontaminate, load up for the next project, and do it all over again before dawn the next day. Be reasonable and considerate in your demands and expectations. Finally, to quote one of my drilling colleagues: “Don't act like you're better than a ‘dumb driller’ because you're highly educated. Respect goes a long way and you'll be doing yourself a favor by treating drillers as an equal.” I wholeheartedly agree.

    Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
    Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (
    www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at info@down2earthenvironmental.ca