Oily residue, white foam and rust color in drainage ditch

pbguy420July 29, 2014

Didn't get much help in the organic forum, I asked there first because I thought it could be related to application of milorganite.

Here's the original post, and below the update to it

I applied milorganite at the proper bag rate on my 13000sq ft lawn... In the sane timeframe I leveled out and fixed some parts of my drainage ditch in the front yard. (The ditch was graded improperly and held water for up to a week after rain) I used soil from the woods behind my house, the top layer was 1 ft of good black soil, then about a foot of sand, and then another foot of clay/sand mix. I mixed it up pretty well, and didn't notice any oil in the soil when I put it down.
After getting almost 5 inches of rain in two weeks, the drainage is much better, but can't be fixed until my neighbor fixes a high spot in his... But the ditch is now a rusty color and also had quite a bit of oily residue, like if you washed oil off concrete. I can see how the milorganite could cause some rust but not the oil... Any ideas? New to this

Now, there is white foam forming in the ditch , every time the sprinkler hits it it all goes away, similar to popping bathtub bubbles - but it's back the next day...

What could be causing this? It's a subdivision and we see tons of rain so I doubt it just all of a sudden washed off the road when it never had before. No cars park near there that would've leaked oil either

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morpheuspa

I have no idea what it is--but I can say that I use Milorganite by the bagful and have never seen that side effect anywhere at any time.

Rust is certainly theoretically possible, I suppose, but again--never seen it. The iron sulfate/iron chloride in Milo is very water soluble and rapidly washes into the ground with no residue.

It sounds more likely that there's something in the soil you used, or you're getting some very strange fungus. Could we get some photos to see the area?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 9:49PM
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pbguy420

I'll snap some photos tomorrow thanks

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 10:08PM
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morpheuspa

Please try to get closeups of the rust and froth.

The more I think about it, the more it sounds (offhand) like a really severe fungal outbreak. Google the fungus called "rust" and see if it looks like that.

The frothy stuff could be something like slime mold, but the area impacted sounds way too large. Unless you have a total infestation...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 11:20PM
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tnjdm

"I use Milorganite by the bagful" is an understatement if you follow Morph :)

I also use a lot of Milo (as a result of following Morph for a couple of years). Never seen a problem whatsoever.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 7:55AM
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morpheuspa

>>"I use Milorganite by the bagful" is an understatement if you follow Morph :)

True. I used a bagful...yesterday, just on the flower gardens. The flower pots probably got a 5X dose (constrained environment, high stress, and I demand a lot from them).

This evening's task is three bags of soybean meal on the lawn to start the fall feeding cycle (it takes three weeks to even think about starting to release).

It would be entirely possible to light off fungal issues with Milorganite or any other organic, but I think you'd need spillage or really, really work at overdoing it. The first would only give you problems in one spot. The second would stink unbelievably as it decays so the problem would be obvious.

Hopefully the photos will clear things up a little for us.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 1:41PM
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pbguy420

Here's the first pic, as you can see now there is some green foam spots showing up. Also you can see the oily residue draining into the ditch so it did not come from the dirt in the ditch , and it's draining in from the house side too , so it didn't come from the road

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:40AM
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pbguy420

I'll do the close ups from my computer if that's not enough... This website sucks from my mobile devices and always half loads every page

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:45AM
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pbguy420

I'll do the close ups from my computer if that's not enough... This website sucks from my mobile devices and always half loads every page

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:46AM
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morpheuspa

What. Was. In. That. Soil?

That most definitely looks like oil spillage at the grass margin. I can't ID anything in that...mess...in the drainage area.

The one thing I can say is that Milorganite would never do that at any reasonable application rate...or any unreasonable application rate I can think of.

Can we get an extreme closeup of the stuff in the drainage ditch? I can't zoom in, and I'm hopeful it's a nice, friendly fungus that's happily chewing up the oil for you...but I wouldn't count on it.

Solution as we stand right now...wait for it to flush naturally. Under no circumstances use any surfactant (including the shampoo soil softening) on this site or any other until at least a year after you don't see any more oil. The only thing that will do is render it water soluble and accessible to the grass--and oil is toxic to grass.

Hopefully somebody can ID what that actually is...

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:53AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

That oily looking sheen is actually from bacteria that is often present when there is iron in the water or soil. You see that sometimes in stagnant streams. It looks like the oily petroleum sheen but it is not.

Sounds like the iron from the Milorganite is leaching into the water that's running off. I'd bet the bubbles are part of the same thing.

I don't think any of this is particularly harmful, although it sounds like you could use less fertilizer next time to prevent the runoff.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 12:55AM
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pbguy420

I don't know! Soil from the hole I dug right next to this one is all over my backyard and my new bermuda is sprouting up fine from it with no fungi!!!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:12AM
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pbguy420

Here's the oily stuff

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:13AM
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pbguy420

Another spot I noticed which may or may not be related... This is same soil that went in the ditch- it was used to raise the level around my tree roots. After a hearty week of rain white shaving cream like fungus was present all over the ground... My backyard is going to get quarantined here!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:16AM
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pbguy420

Close up of that... Tree and ditch are 150 ft apart and separated by a driveway.

Also if it helps- the entire slope near the drainage ditch is super saturated, to the point that walking on it feels spongy and it hasn't rained in a week

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:19AM
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morpheuspa

I'm seriously thinking the CDC might not be a bad idea.

With the extreme closeups, I'm going to go out on a limb--that top soil contained a lot (and by that I mean a LOT) of raw organic material. Which is now happily rotting in the damp conditions. Which is attracting a ton of decay fungi (which you see) and bacteria (which you don't usually see but can if they form plaques).

That oil still concerns me. I toss around iron sulfate and Milorganite like both are going out of style, and I never--and I mean never--see any oily residue. We're talking ten pounds per thousand ferrous sulfate per year here.

For now, I'm going to write it off as fungal and bacterial effluva--but I'm also going to tell you to watch the grasses carefully where it congregates.

My recommendation to not use any surfactants stands. I don't want that oil re-integrating into the soil, I want it to run off into your swale and Go Away.

On the up side, decay bacteria and fungi don't attack living organisms as a general rule (there are exceptions that can cross over, but none of these look particularly threatening). Quite the opposite--the grasses invading those areas are a darker shade of green from the looks of it. Decaying organic material will certainly release plenty of nitrogen.

For now, let's put this on a watch. If it's still a problem by the end of August we'll reconsider--or if the grass or plants start dying. But I don't want to interfere with a normal decay process since that's simply going to delay the inevitable.

This post was edited by morpheuspa on Thu, Jul 31, 14 at 1:59

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 1:58AM
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tnjdm

Man, that's some ugly stuff PB. I can't resist..........

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 7:36AM
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PKponder TX(7b)

I agree with Karin, the oily sheen is probably not oil, but a bacteria attempting to break down minerals in the soil.

The bubbles and green algae in the other picture look to be a normal but unsightly growth of algae in standing water and sunlight.

I am linking to an article from the state of Michigan that describes the oily sheens and which minerals cause the different colors.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oil-Like Films and Slimes (Bacteria): A Naturally-Occurring Phenomena

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 8:31AM
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morpheuspa

You learn something new every day.

OK, so try breaking the surface of the oily film. If it reforms in reasonable time, it's petroleum. If not, bacterial.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 3:31PM
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botanicalbill(9b SWFlorida)

The coating or membrane of most bacteria and mammal cells are purely made of lipids, aka fat. I will also agree that this is just a natural bacteria getting its feed on in some nutrients in the soil.
I have seen this many times.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 8:30PM
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pbguy420

That explains the oil... Any ideas on the white fungus in the last pictures?

Thanks guys, the grass is healthy as hell I was just worried I had some kind of EPA issue on my hands haha

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:50PM
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pbguy420

That explains the oil... Any ideas on the white fungus in the last pictures?

Thanks guys, the grass is healthy as hell I was just worried I had some kind of EPA issue on my hands haha

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 10:51PM
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morpheuspa

>>That explains the oil... Any ideas on the white fungus in the last pictures?

If that's lipid coating, it has to come from somewhere...which means an extremely healthy and numerous population of bacteria and fungi.

The fungi you have look much like the fungi I sometimes get in mostly-done compost, or used to get in areas where I was dumping over 100 pounds per K of organic matter. It doesn't look like anything to worry about as it's clearly not doing any damage.

Strangely, even my compost bin doesn't do this, and that's one hundred percent OM.

Hum. Try sticking your nose down near the soil surface and see if you can smell decay. You may not if oxygen levels are sufficient in the soil and whatever's decaying doesn't have a high nitrogen level.

Heavy scent means heavy decay of high nitrogen stuff--which confirms the hypothesis that it's decaying OM. No scent doesn't disprove it, though, just that there's not enough nitrogen or enough anaerobic decay to produce a bad odor.

I'm of the opinion that I probably wouldn't use that top soil again. For something like this to happen, raw organic material levels had to be absolutely unreal...and those are going to decay down to practically nothing over time. It's for this reason that filling holes with peat moss or other organics isn't recommended, eventually you lose close to 100%.

In this case, most of that should still be soil, so some minor settling is all I'd expect.

I'd expect decay to back off fairly quickly as the soil runs out of early-stage OM. Labor Day? Somewhat before or after? In that range anyway if the soil stays damp.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2014 at 11:04PM
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