What is this on my soil?

west9491(6)July 19, 2013

The land I live on is likely to be an old strip pit. Most of the land around mine is...But its very acidic, poor dirt. I think I even have a place where sulfuric water comes out of the ground. I'll have to post that later....

But the pic shows a crusty looking buildup on the ground. What is this stuff?

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heres another pic at more distance, may give you better perspective.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 10:08AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Can you tell us where you are, and what was mined out of there? I suppose coal, but I didn't want to assume.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 12:00PM
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Really need to know where you are and what was mined, but a complete WAG would be gypsum.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 3:49PM
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As I recall from previous posts West has indicated in the past the he is in Tennessee.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 6:56AM
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In TN, they mined phosphate rock (calcium phosphate) via surface mines. Much of that was treated with sulfuric acid in a wet process to recover the phosphate as phosphoric acid. The byproduct from that process was called phosphogypsum - it's a slurry of acid wet gypsum left over after the phosphorus was recovered as phosphoric acid. Again WAG, but if phosphate rock was mined in your area, and your soils are highly acidic, and there is sulfuric acid residue also present, I would suspect phosphogypsum.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 7:48AM
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deleting duplicated post ...

This post was edited by TXEB on Sat, Jul 20, 13 at 8:41

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 8:38AM
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Thanks for responses. On tn ky line, East Tennessee side. And I don't know what has been mined out of this area.
So if this buildup is phosphogypsum, is it a problem? Is there anything that can be done besides liming and adding OM?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 4:43PM
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First thing is to figure out just what it is before you attempt any remedy at all.

Can't really tell much from those pics, but as I noted my wild guess is an inorganic deposit (salt) of some kind based on the observation that it appears to have been moved there with water flow, and it appears granular and particulate. At first look I thought it might be gypsum; the phosphogyspum would be a correlation with phosphate rock mining if that happened in your area.

The first question is, is it an inorganic compound of some kind, or is it a growth or other organic material? Then comes narrowing it down. From that comes determining how it got there - is it something natural for your area, or otherwise? If otherwise, how could it have gotten there? Could it be as simple as someone spilled some Portland cement, or gypsum, or something similar, could it the washoff of a cement mix ?

I would suggest starting with other land owners in the immediate area - do they or have they seen anything similar? If it appears other than something natural for your area, do they know anything about prior land use or work done on the land? Short of either getting lucky early in the asking or spending some money for analytical determination, it may take some time and effort to figure it out.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2013 at 5:32PM
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I went out to try to get some more pictures. In this one, you can see there is what looks like growths, with tiny red things on the ends. they kinda look like mushrooms

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 11:11PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

That growth looks like British soldier lichen. Maybe the rest of the deposit is lichen too.

I've seen these in a sand dune area in MA.


This link shows pictures of various lichen (Cladonia spp) related to the British soldier lichen.

This post was edited by claire on Mon, Aug 5, 13 at 9:16

    Bookmark   August 4, 2013 at 10:29AM
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Could the last pic be lichen growing on the�whatever this stuff is? Cuz this stuff on the soil is kinda chalky, and is attached to the soil well enough to prevent erosion.
I don't know what I can do to find out what kind of mining was done around here, and is there someone I can contact to find out what this stuff is? Like maybe county extension?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 8:20AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

County extension would be a good place to start. They may know a lot about local history.

Local historical society if there is one.

Your state will have an environmental agency and somewhere within it will be an office that regulates mines and/or mine reclamation. For example in MO there is a Land Reclamation Program in the DNR, which has funds generated from taxes on mining and mined materials, which it uses to reclaim very old mining waste and mine-scarred lands left prior to any regulation. Nowadays mining companies are required to put the land back to some semblance of normalcy and not leave pits and piles of waste. Anyway that office may be able to tell you a lot about what went on in this area. And they may even have resources to assist with cleanup of old mines on private property.

You might contact the TN Dept. of Env. and Conservation and ask them if this is under their purview or some other agency.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 10:32AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

The county extension would be good, you may be able to mail a sample, or you could just dig up a chunk and bring it to a good local garden center (not Home Depot, etc.) and ask them if it's living material and if they know anything about the soil. Call first so you can talk to someone knowledgeable and not to whomever is manning the cash register.

Cooperative Extension System Offices


    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Been out for a week, so just saw the new pic. With the new close-up, I would guess some kind of lichen, possibly in the Cladonia genus, and maybe actually several kinds growing collectively.

You might try sending the first and most recent pics to Stephen Sharnoff via lichen@idiom.com, and he just might help you pinpoint what lichen it might be, or direct you to someone who can. More on Sharnoff and lichens via the link below

Here is a link that might be useful: LICHENS OF NORTH AMERICA

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 8:46AM
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