When Nelson Mast and his wife, Donna, moved to Boundary County in 1994, they had no idea that in 15 years they would own a well drilling business.
Nelson worked for Caribou Creek for ten years in the sales and construction areas, and when the opportunity arose in 2004 to purchase property in Moyie, he and Donna took the chance and bought the 40-acre parcel Whispering Pines development. That is when, as Nelson put it, "the road changed directions" in his life.
The American Well Drilling team Nelson Mast, Chris Hammond and Curt Hammond.
He continued to work part-time for Caribou Creek as well as at Whispering Pines, and less than two years later, the Masts bought and began to develop the area up Meadow Creek Road.
"We had 37 wells to drill," recalls Nelson. "Aqua from Coeur d'Alene drilled the first 16 wells, and in the process, we met and got to know Curt Hammond, the drilling superintendent for Aqua at the time. He had considered moving to Kalispell and buying a well drilling business there."
With all those remaining wells to drill, Nelson said that he and Donna just decided to purchase a drill rig, hire Curt away from Aqua and drill the wells themselves.
"Curt had been drilling for 15 years. He was conscientious and spent so much time making sure he did everything right. He was very sensitive to what his rig was doing. We were so impressed with his drilling expertise; we still are," said Nelson.
Nelson said that most people see well drilling as a three-season business. That is actually not the case.
"We can drill through frozen ground. We drill through rocks, so a little bit of frozen ground is not an issue," said Nelson. "The Foremost dual rotary rig we have is different from most drill rigs. Most rigs use a top rotary, but the advantage of the dual rotary is that we can turn the drill steel and install the casing at the same time."
Nelson said that, although well drilling is the focus of his business, he is excited about the potential for drilling for geo-thermal heating and cooling systems.
Because the earth stays at a fairly constant temperature, Nelson said that tapping into the heat generated by the earth is a green, environmentally friendly way to heat and cool homes.
Nelson explained that in order to heat and cool with geothermal energy, first a trench must be dug, and then a 300 - 400 foot long heat exchanger pipe with circulating fluids is buried in the trench. The fluid travels back through the furnace and goes through the Freon process, then condenses and extracts heat. The system works backwards for cooling a home. The long pipe can also be installed in a vertical loop, which is what Nelson sees American Well Drilling doing in the future.
"We just got our certification from the International Ground Heat Pump Association," said Nelson. "We are certified to do all geo-thermal installations on existing construction as well as new construction. Geo-thermal makes sense. The unit may cost a little more up front, but now that there is a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of alternative energy systems, the cost is about even. The savings in monthly heating and cooling costs more than off-set the additional investment of the unit."
Nelson said that American Well Drilling will drill anywhere in the three northern counties as well as western Washington.
"I like my business," he said. "It's interesting. North Idaho is so varied geologically because of the glacial aspects of the past. We focus on what we do and do it right. We just do our best to give an honest shake for an honest price."
American Well Drilling can be reached at 267-1974 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org