JIM HAYES OF C&J WATER
The water treatment manager explains challenges treating well water in central Indiana and guidance for contractors offering this service.
By Mike Price
With access to the Internet, water treatment professionals know most customers will look the subject up online before calling. Treatment
professionals have come to expect it.
Therefore, Jim Hayes of C&J Water in the Zionsville, Indiana, shop has a pragmatic approach to the dilemma of educating customers or potential customers who think they know everything about water quality and treatment.
“First, you just need to let them get it all out. Let them tell you what they ‘know,’” says Hayes, a water treatment manager who has been with the company for 17 years.
“Once it is your turn to talk, just be confident and know that you have years of training and experience on your side. Always respond to the customer with respect and if their ‘facts’ are in error, shoot the theories down as nicely as you can but not in a spirit that would seem like you are disrespecting the customer. Going into a conversation with confidence in your knowledge will usually benefit you in the end.
“A reasonable customer will see that you are a competent professional and you just might gain a customer. If a customer is wrong and will not listen to reason or facts, you probably will not do business with them and both you and the customer will be fine with that.”
C&J Water has found success following this mindset and celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2021. The water treatment company, with its main office in Brownsburg, Indiana, is part of C&J Well Co., which began in 1996 when Josh Abdnour purchased the well drilling company. Before 1996, the company was Water Wells by Wilhite, which originated in the 1950s.
“I like to help solve water quality problems at C&J,” Hayes explains. “Dealing with well water definitely has its share of challenges. We have parts of our service area that deal with excessive iron, tannins, hydrogen sulfide, brackish water, and more. We have successfully fixed water for customers when other companies could not.”
Like many other water treatment professionals, C&J Water has benefited from people working from home during the pandemic who have in turn focused on upgrading the quality of their water.
New residential construction has also been at an all-time high during the pandemic, Hayes says, leading to even more homes needing water treatment and wells.
“We have been blessed to stay busy during the pandemic,” Hayes shares. “In Indiana, our business was deemed to be essential, so we did not have to stop working. That was a huge help to our industry.”
Water Well Journal caught up with Hayes to learn more about treating well water in central Indiana and guidance for contractors who are expanding into offering water treatment.
Water Well Journal: Which water quality questions do you hear most from your customers?
Jim Hayes: How do I get rid of iron stains? How do we get odor out of our water? How do we get better tasting water?
WWJ: What are some of the most challenging water quality issues you’ve solved in the last five to 10 years?
Hayes: Central Indiana water has just about every type of water problem that is out there, depending on the area you might be in. We have areas that experience hardness, heavy iron, tannins, hydrogen sulfide, and even brackish water. None of these issues are new to the industry as a whole, but there are surprisingly few water treatment dealers who are good at solving well water problems.
Most water treatment dealers in our area have more city water customers than well water. This is partly why C&J Water started doing water treatment. We have a good grasp on how to effectively help our customers with these problems as we are the driller and the treatment professional.
I would say one of the most challenging issues would be excessive sulfide levels. Before we got into the water treatment business, there were certain aquifers we tried not to drill into because we knew the customer would hate that rotten egg smell. Now that we have learned how to treat these sulfides, we now can confidently drill in these areas and tell the customer that we can treat the smelly water if we end up drilling into it.
WWJ: How are you handling the detection and treatment of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) in your service area of central Indiana?
Hayes: We really don’t get too many questions regarding PFOA/PFOS. The most economical way to treat this is to remove it from the drinking water using a reverse osmosis system. The RO systems C&J Water install are IAMPO (International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials) certified in removing PFOA/PFOS from the drinking water.
WWJ: What are the most common challenges your customers face with water well treatment needs?
Hayes: The most common challenge for our well water customers is iron and hardness. Our customers ask for solutions that are economical and easy for them to manage. A good amount of the dealers in our area only offer solutions that are effective for two to three years. Customers have grown weary of having to buy replacement equipment.
C&J Water, being drillers and pump installers, has heard a lot of these complaints and led us to offer equipment that aims to minimize the amount of equipment in the home and eliminate the need for the customer to buy new equipment every few years.
“We have parts of our service area that deal with excessive iron, tannins, hydrogen sulfide, brackish water, and more. We have successfully fixed water for customers when other companies could not.”
WWJ: When it comes to installing a reverse osmosis system, what are the most common steps that get overlooked?
Hayes: As a company, I feel like we rarely overlook anything while installing an RO system. I would say making sure the John Guest fittings are pushed in completely would be a problem that could create a leak.
We pre-charge all our RO systems at our shop. This means that we do not have to explain to a customer that they must wait a few hours for an RO tank to fill, and it also eliminates the need for the customer to purge their first tank since we purge the carbon dust at our shop. When we install our economy-style RO system, it also lets us leak test all the different canisters that need tightened.
WWJ: What are the first steps a contractor should take when looking to offer water treatment as a service to their customers?
Hayes: What kind of competition do you have from other water treatment companies? If the other companies are not doing a good job with water well customers, or there are not a lot of companies at all, you will likely succeed at offering water treatment.
You also need to look at who is doing a good job offering water treatment to water well clients and figure out if you can do the same. Find an equipment brand that is not junk. Find a supplier that its primary business is to provide water treatment equipment. Places that offer general plumbing, electric, and HVAC products are not suited to help you become a good water treatment company.
Price your equipment properly and have a warranty that you will stand behind and that is robust enough to grab your customers’ attention. Find a person to add to your staff who is very experienced in water treatment as this adds a wealth of information and experience and will help you avoid some growing pains.
WWJ: What guidance do you have for someone looking to price their new water treatment services?
Hayes: It’s really no different than any other industry. Know what the market will allow. Know what your competition is offering and make sure that you stay in the same ballpark. In areas not exactly related to price, look at where your competition is failing and purpose to be better than them in those areas. Sometimes the customer is not looking for the cheaper deal.
WWJ: What does effective water treatment mean to you?
Hayes: Effective means that the customer can turn their water on anywhere in the house and not be reminded constantly that they have well water or that they have water treatment equipment that doesn’t work quite right. We want our customers to know that the equipment they bought from C&J Water was the right equipment, with the right price, and a great warranty.
WWJ: Lastly, what trends do you see coming to those working in water well treatment?
Hayes: A new trend we have been seeing the last several years is a focus on clean well water when buying or selling a home. There are various lenders in our region who will not loan money on a house that has bacteria, nitrates, or lead in the well water.
C&J Water now does a lot of bacteria sampling for customers and offers various ways of getting rid of bacteria—whether it be with chlorine or UV light protection or RO systems to get other contaminants out of the drinking water. We feel like this kind of demand from lenders will only grow in the future and will likely expand to other water contaminants such as PFOA/PFOS.
Mike Price is the senior editor of Water Well Journal. In addition to his WWJ responsibilities, Price contributes to the Association’s scientific publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (800) 551-7379, ext. 1541.