restoring farmland after oil spill - advice needed

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by rhubarbodendron, Jun 23, 2013.

  1. rhubarbodendron

    rhubarbodendron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 1, 2011
    milky way, outer spiral arm, Sol 3
    First of all my heartfelt commiserations to those who are affected by the flood in Canada. If there is anything we can do to help, please speak up!

    You may perhaps have heard of the flood we had here in Bavaria the last 2 weeks - my town was hit worst as a dam broke. Catastrophy Alert (that's basically like a national emergency of the highest level, only it's issued locally) was lifted only yesterday. There are no definite figures yet but the damage in my town alone is estimated to be around 0.8 billion Dollars.

    To give you an idea of what we're dealing with, here's a recording from a helicopter flight from Saturday last week (flash player required)
    That big road is a highway. When the main flood wave hit us it got flooded by more than 10 feet. These pictures were taken about 1 day before that, when there were only some 3 feet of water on it.

    We have a huge oil spill problem here. Does anyone have experience with that? We could do with some advice as this is (or was, rather) the nation's best farmland. After Kathrina it must have been similar, I think. Do we have members from that region who might be able to give us a few tips?

    We urgently need information on:
    * how to get the oil out of the soil (argh! Pun not intended!) (Still, kinda catchy...)
    * what plants might grow in the polluted soil (climatical conditions in winter like British Columbia, in summer like Northern California)
    * what plants should not be grown now (radishes, I suppose? They would grow in the contaminated layer)
    * would digging the oil under make it decay faster?
    * how can we avoid contamination of the ground water (the deeper soil is extremely pebble-ish so that there is a great risk of everything getting washed down there very quickly)

    Also, with regards to people who have gardens:
    * What plants can you grown in a oil-contaminated garden?
    * what can gardeners do to minimize the effect of the oil on trees and shrubs?

    Any advice would be welcome. You may think gardens not really important, considering the fact that several thousand houses and farms have to be disassembled to the walls and rebuilt, but people need something to lift their spirits and watching something grow around the ruins is just the thing now.

    I already tried to get into contact with one of the gardeners from the Page Museum and La Brea tarpits but I suppose they consider my request a hoax :( Guess I better call them on the phone tomorrow. I guess it'd be overstretching the laws of propability if I hoped that one of said gardeners is a member here?
  2. Avon

    Avon Commodore Commodore

    May 7, 2010
    oil floats. maybe you should try flooding the area. oh... :shrug:
  3. propita

    propita Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Mar 9, 2001
    fresno, ca, us
    The US Midwest had a MASSIVE flood some years back, practically covering entire states. They must've written up what they did to compensate for contamination (besides planting anyway and selling the harvest).
  4. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Mar 22, 2010
  5. Locutus of Bored

    Locutus of Bored KNEEL BEFORE RODD! Moderator

    Jul 5, 2004
    Incinerating You With Gene's Vision
    A poster here named farmkid is both a farmer and has a PhD in chemistry if I'm not mistaken, so he might be uniquely qualified to offer advice to you. You might want to drop him a PM. Even if he can't help you directly I'm sure he would know some helpful contacts.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding the information and hope you have a speedy recovery in your area. :)
  6. bbailey861

    bbailey861 Admiral Premium Member

    Oct 14, 2009
    Kingston, ON Canada
    Oh, that is so terrible. I hope you can dry out and the land recovers well. Ich Liebe Deutschland.
  7. teya

    teya Vice Admiral Admiral

    Jun 20, 2001
    2 mi S of Capt Braxton's shopping cart
    My heart goes out to you. In 2011, in my home county in upstate NY, the entire valley flooded just as harvest season was in full swing. It was heartbreaking.

    However, testing done following the floods indicated that the valley (once called "the Breadbasket of the American Revolution" because its fertility provided much of the food eaten by the colonial troops) fared pretty well, all things considered. Because the ground was saturated by heavy rains before Irene moved in, the toxic water simply rushed over the land & didn't settle. That year's harvest was lost, but there was no long term contamination.

    Farmers further upstream on higher (and rockier) ground, however, had serious topsoil loss (one potato farmer lost 10 ft of topsoil) and some just gave up. :(

    Your farmers are going to have to have their soil tested. I would assume (although maybe I shouldn't?) that you have an agricultural ministry or other bureaucracy that can give advice? Here in the US we have the state Cooperative Extensions (which is, at least in NY, based at the agricultural college).

    I would give the same advice to gardeners: get your soil tested. You have to know what you're dealing with before you can do something about it.

    ETA: The soil testing project in the Schoharie Valley was instigated by the high school agricultural sciences class--and in the end they won $100K in technology for their tiny rural school for the work they did. :)
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2013
  8. rhubarbodendron

    rhubarbodendron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 1, 2011
    milky way, outer spiral arm, Sol 3
    thank you all for the excellent suggestions, and my appologies for being so late to respond - I had a most embarassing accident (fell off my desk when chasing a spider and hurt my knee quite badly) and wasn't online because I had trouble with the stairs to my study.

    I'll PM farmkid right away. A farming chemist is just what I need :) Thanks, Locutus!

    I had no idea you Americans had floods in so many states! Over here we hear only of very few ones. I'll definitely look all the major ones up and see what I can find, soil restoration-wise.

    Teya, thanks for the hint about the rain saturated soil. I had completely forgotten to take that factor into account. This would indeed keep the oil quite close to the surface where we can deal with it =)
    10 feet topsoil loss? Ouch! The poor farmers!! (Still, an amazing soil quality) We usually have only about 1 foot farmable soil at all here. 2-3 in the best parts. If you dig 10 feet deep you're likely to hit ground water or at least a massive layer of pebbles on the right riverbank. On the left one you hit massive granite at about 5 ft.
  9. Captain Ice

    Captain Ice Cookie Constructor Admiral

    Dec 30, 2002
    Getting Captain Ice on to the naughty list
    In 1993 and 2011, the Mississippi River (the largest river system in the US at some 2000 miles long) flooded. In '93, the flooding covered some 30,000 square miles of farmland. In 2011, it resulted in President Obama's declaring large portions of three states Federal Disaster Areas do to the flooding.

    check it out and what you find may have the answers you seek. Records for both, including what was done to restore farmland, may be available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  10. Mr. B

    Mr. B Vice Admiral Admiral

    Dec 28, 2002
    New Orleans
    Literally replacing the top soil is the best option for that situation. Dig up the first 2.5 inches and put down new, uncontaminated dirt in its place.
  11. judgeroy

    judgeroy Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    May 30, 2009
    In the mountains
    I used to be involved in this kind of work in an industrial setting, however, my knowledge is 20 years old, so there may be other options today. What the EPA rules were at the time was to take up the first 6 inches of soil and send it off for disposal. Test the soil at that depth and if no oil, then fill back in and done, but if testing showed more oil, then dig up another 6 inches and send off. Keep doing that until you get clean samples. Gasoline was a different matter, dig up 6 inches and place on a heavy plastic tarp and stir soil regularly, the gasoline will evaporate and then you can just replace that soil back.
  12. Santaman

    Santaman Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Jul 27, 2001
  13. rhubarbodendron

    rhubarbodendron Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    May 1, 2011
    milky way, outer spiral arm, Sol 3
    Thanks to everyone for the useful advice! I collected the info and forwarded it to the local authorities who asked me to relay to you all their heartfelt thanks for the advice, help and commiserations. (And they added they could use a few thousand BBSers as tourists to help the hotel business a bit LOL)

    My appologies for replying so very late to you all. The flood's aftermath kept me rather busy and on top of it we also had a poison spill with a really nasty substance that filters through your skin and shortwires your nerves (in other words: first you cramp violently, then your heart and lungs stop).

    After the flood we promptly got a drought here. It hasn't rained a single drop in 3 weeks and what plants survived the flood and oil spill are now rustling dry.
    While this keeps us from trying to plant something that might ripen till fall it gives us a little more time to decontaminate and revive the soil. So this cloud (I wish we had one! It's unbearably hot) has a silver line. :)