Pond smells like sewage

Discussion in 'Water Chemistry' started by exodusofficer, Jul 29, 2011.

  1. exodusofficer

    exodusofficer

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Columbia, MD
    Hello,

    I manage two concrete ponds. I've installed a plant filter in one that keeps the water crystal clear and healthy for everything living in there, but every time I try on the other one the plants fail to thrive and the water turns brown and ends up smelling like sewage. I've tested all the standard things that my basic test kit covers, but nothing seems out of place. This happened last year too. Any thoughts?
     
    exodusofficer, Jul 29, 2011
    #1
    1. Advertising

  2. exodusofficer

    DrDave Innovator Moderator

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    Messages:
    6,918
    Location:
    Fallbrook, Ca USA
    If the plant filter media, IE dirt, gravel, sand is disturbed, you will smell the hydrogen sulphide. If it is from that, it will eventually balace out again. I never put dirt or sand in my ponds, only pea gravel in containers.
     
    DrDave, Jul 29, 2011
    #2
    1. Advertising

  3. exodusofficer

    clm

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2008
    Messages:
    27
    Location:
    Mississauga, Ontario
    So tell us what the differences are between the two ponds. Are they the same size, same type of fish, same stocking levels, same sunlight. What about the plant filters themselves, again list the differences between the two, size, type of plants, planting media and sunlight.

    clm
     
    clm, Jul 29, 2011
    #3
  4. exodusofficer

    exodusofficer

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2010
    Messages:
    16
    Location:
    Columbia, MD
    So the good pond is about 25,000 gallons, no dirt or sand besides what has fallen in there during rains. There are no fish in either pond. The smelly one is about 15,000 gallons. Both have waterfalls and are well aerated. The plants are mostly cattails, the big pond has a lot that are thriving but they just won't take hold in the smaller pond. There are also some water hyacinths and water lettuce in the big pond, but only a few. They won't survive in the smaller pond because the waterfall is positioned in such a way that it's always flipping them over and killing them. The small pond does have less shade than the big pond (which is half shaded by a big tree), that's the biggest difference between them I guess. Do you think the shade makes the difference? Or does the small pond just need water changes much more often?

    Oh, and the planting media is just big rocks, grapefruit sized or larger.
     
    exodusofficer, Aug 4, 2011
    #4
  5. exodusofficer

    sissy sissy

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    19,328
    Location:
    Axton virginia
    I have found cattail roots have a tendency to give off a foul odor in my small pond but in the bigger pond at the other house they do fine .I got them from an abandoned pond winter stock area cleaned them well repotted them and put some in my pond and the smell was bad .I took them out and relized that it was coming from the the root area of them ,so I repotted them again and it happened again so took them to the other pond and they did not do it there .My pond here is in sun that pond is mostly shade .I used pebbles and lava rock to plant them .
     

    Attached Files:

    sissy, Aug 4, 2011
    #5
  6. exodusofficer

    Catfishnut

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,244
    Location:
    Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska

    Exodusofficer,

    Is the water source for both ponds identical or are they at separate locations will different sources? If the one that smells bad and turns brownish is from a private well, then it may be possible that there is a high iron content in this water.

    Iron can be present in well water in two forms, ferric and ferrous. Ferric iron is insoluble in water, so when it is pumped out of the ground, the water is naturally tinted a rusted red or brown color and will settle out very quickly. Ferrous iron is soluble in water and it will appear clear when first pumped out, but when exposed to oxygen, it changes to ferric iron and the water begins to turn cloudy and then red or brown. The iron eventually sediments out of the water after the oxidixing process takes place.

    In either case, there is a natural bacteria that consumes iron (and one that consumes sulfur). Both bacteria give off hydrogen sulfide gas that smells like rotten eggs or sewage. The water may not smell at first, it takes some time for the water to be exposed to oxygen and the warmth above ground in order for the bacteria culture to grow before you notice the odor.

    I cannot say that this is the case with your one pond, especially since I don't believe that either form of iron or the bacteria would be harmful to plant life. I would think that it would actually be good for them. Such water is totally safe for human consumption, even with the bacteria. It just isn't very pleasent to drink or bathe in or to wash your white clothes with. So, I believe that the issue with the plants is another problem altogether.

    I have a cabin along a river where I live that has very high iron content in the ground water, so I have researched this problem in the past. I have a horrible time keeping the water in my bait tanks clean because of it. They turn so bad after a while that you cannot see the bait in the tank and it is dirtier than the river water. You might consider having the water tested by a lab if it is a well source. It is not all that expensive, or at least it wasn't the last time I had mine tested. It was around $40 to $60 to test my well water with a full blown lab analysis (they tested for all contaminants). However, there is a very simple and FREE method to test for just iron alone. Pump about half a gallon of the water into a clear gallon jug and cap it. Shake it up good to mix the air with the water and then just let the jug sit for several days with the cap on and in the sun. If it turns reddish or brownish, forms a sediment layer of rust colored silt at the bottom and starts to stink like rotten eggs, you probably have found your culprit for at least that part of it.

    There isn't a really good method for curing this for a 15,000 gallon pond (too large of a scale). You can easily fix it for a houshold water source with a water softener and a B.I.R.M. filter. The only way to do it for a pond would be to pump the water through a very large sediment filter (sand and gravel) and strain it out over time. The water would eventually clear, as long as not too much of the same water was pumped into the pond to replenish evaporation losses and seepage, etc.

    I don't know if this is your problem, but when you mentioned the brownish water and the sewage smell, I was highly suspicious of iron and iron eating bacteria. I thought you might like my tip for something that you could check out, and do so fairly easily.

    Good luck and reply if you find anything out along this line.

    Gordy


    As for the plants demise, I don't know. I cannot see the iron or the bacteria being the culprit here. I would think that it would even be beneficial for plant life. It would not be good for fish, though. If there is that much iron that a pond turns that color because of it, it would be hard on their gills for one and it would also reduce the solubility of oxygen in the water.
     
    Catfishnut, Oct 16, 2011
    #6
    Waterbug likes this.
  7. exodusofficer

    sissy sissy

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    19,328
    Location:
    Axton virginia
    interesting I had my well water tested and had a whole house water filtration system put in my house that self flushes itself and has almost no hands on from me .I have red clay like stuff after I moved in here even though my water test seemed to say everything was fine so my son a contractor suggested using this and it seemed to have solved the problem .The well is almost 500 ft. deep and most wells in my neighborhood are around 200 ft. .I am up on a hill and they are all down lower than my house and all of my neighbors use those house filters with those round filters and have to replace them every 2 weeks and still get pink water .
     
    sissy, Oct 16, 2011
    #7
    Catfishnut likes this.
  8. exodusofficer

    Catfishnut

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,244
    Location:
    Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska

    Hi Sissy,

    Gordy here again. I see that you have experienced trouble with "bad well water" as well as I have. For your home water supply, something akin to a B.I.R.M. filter will help you out considerably. Google that and also try just a standard water softener. If the iron content is extremely high, you may need to aply what they call "shock treatment" to the well itself. This is nothing more than tossing chlorine into your well. They make tablets and powders that are concentrated chlorine that you run through the system to kill the bacteria. This all does nothing for the iron in your water, though. It only kills the bacteria that makes the water smell bad. There is a specific process to follow to "shock treat" the well in this way. You don't just toss it in and then drink the water of course. It also is not good if you are using the same water source for your pond, obviously.

    Earlier I mentioned using a B.I.R.M. filter. This is nothing more than a specific mineral compound that works well for removing iron. The name of this media (BIRM) is actually an acronym and stands for Backwashable-Iron-Removing Media. This is one of the media that does NOT require a potent chemical or a caustic chemical to flush it out when it has performed its duty. It is nearly continually renewable through the process of just backflushing the system with fresh water. It is user friendly.

    If the iron content in your well water is not too high, just a simple water softener will suffice. If you have high undisolved iron, then use a prefilter before the BIRM filter or the water softener to extend the life of those devices. The soluable iron requires an added step (to alter the iron from one type -ferric or ferrous) to the other. and the BIRM filter performs like a catalyst that completes that task for you. A BIRM filter is not really cheap, but it lasts forever and doesn't require chemicals to rejuvenate it, just backwashing is all that you need.

    As I informed Exodus just this morning, I understand certain things about water quality (not everything - just a few things) because I have been exposed to it personally and I did some research on it a long time ago for a non-pond related issue. I am hoping that my past research will assist Exodus and maybe yourself. If my past research helps either of you and anyone else, I would be very happy. I believe that there is no sense in duplicating the research process (I spent a LOT of time) trying to figure it all out. If iron in your water is a problem, you shouldn't have to repeat the research from the very start or from bare scratch. You can check it out from that point on and determine if it is something that you can use.

    I sure hope you find my info useful, I would be proud to know that I have helped in some way.

    Take care Sissy, talk to you again soon. I have to get ready for work now (rats! I would like to read more on the site right now).

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Oct 16, 2011
    #8
  9. exodusofficer

    Catfishnut

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2011
    Messages:
    1,244
    Location:
    Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska
    Sissy,

    I thought about your recent post after a while and it occurred to me that youmight have meant that your water is now OK with your system and your neighbor's wells are still bad. If that is the case, please excuse me for jumping to a false conclusion if that is so. I kinda got carried away with the eplanation of the iron stuff and wasn't paying close attention.

    Gordy
     
    Catfishnut, Oct 16, 2011
    #9
  10. exodusofficer

    sissy sissy

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    19,328
    Location:
    Axton virginia
    thats ok my water is fine and I really do hate water softners as you have to by pass for drinking water and I can't stand the taste they leave on veggies when you wash them or cook them and since I am a vegetarian and have been all my life and accustomed to foods I grow myself and use no salt at all on anything .I don;\'t even own a salt shaker a pepper mill yes but no salt .I did have that done to my well because it was suggested by my well driller .I have not had the problem since my son installed this system and it is really nice that it self flushes and recharges itself .I don't even use butter as I really do not care for the taste and margarine does not taste good either .I don't even put anything on my sweet corn when I cook it people think it is strange not to put salt and butter on it ,but why .
     
    sissy, Oct 16, 2011
    #10
  11. exodusofficer

    addy1 water gardener / gold fish and shubunkins Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2010
    Messages:
    21,945
    Location:
    Frederick, Maryland zone 6b
    We picked up one of those filters sissy, it works great. Our well water is wonderful, but debris, little stones, little dirt. The filter does a great flush.
     
    addy1, Oct 17, 2011
    #11
  12. exodusofficer

    Waterbug

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2010
    Messages:
    2,998
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    Gordy, great idea on the iron. My first thought for rotten eggs smell now days is always muck. But your post took me back to childhood when many wells had iron and rotten egg smell. They say we never forget smells.

    Exodusofficer, as anyone who has cleaned out a pea gravel bog, and the same for large rocks, can tell you, it collects muck just same as anything else, including a bare pond, and will smell bad.

    You didn't say what it was you were doing in the pond when you smelled the odor. Muck would be the most common source of rotten egg smells. Every pond has a layer of muck on the bottom, it's just a question of how much. Muck would be a good thing for the plants and insects. It's a healthy environment for them, humans just don't like it. So it wouldn't be related to the plants not doing well.

    Cattails are heavy feeders and planted in bare rocks, especially large rocks, would not be the optimal setting by a long shot. Lots of muck can help, but still not best. Shade wouldn't be helping either. I wouldn't expect them to do well in full shade.

    How are mosquitoes controlled in these ponds?
     
    Waterbug, Oct 17, 2011
    #12
  13. exodusofficer

    sissy sissy

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2011
    Messages:
    19,328
    Location:
    Axton virginia
    yeh they do work great and the cost for them is not even what you would pay for the filters in those cheap things and my son put in a bigger storage tank and a filter on my kitchen faucet under the sink just in case ..I use the old screw filter with the replaceable filter on my pond with a charcoal filter in it and run water through it with a small pump up to the waterfall
     
    sissy, Oct 18, 2011
    #13
    1. Advertising

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

It takes just 2 minutes to sign up (and it's free!). Just click the sign up button to choose a username and then you can ask your own questions on the forum.
Similar Threads
  1. koiguy1969

    wouldnt you like this fish in your pond?

    koiguy1969, Aug 6, 2011, in forum: General Chat
    Replies:
    21
    Views:
    2,144
    mogsie
    Aug 25, 2011
  2. BRayPond

    I'd like to make my pond more shallow, any ideas?

    BRayPond, Oct 29, 2011, in forum: Newbies to Garden Ponds
    Replies:
    27
    Views:
    2,569
    heninquins
    Nov 10, 2011
  3. pecan
    Replies:
    40
    Views:
    1,646
    DrCase
    Mar 27, 2014
  4. lexusalan

    New member and pond and would like a little help please.

    lexusalan, Aug 14, 2012, in forum: Newbies to Garden Ponds
    Replies:
    24
    Views:
    1,243
    lexusalan
    Aug 17, 2012
  5. Kreg87

    Pond at New House smells like sewage

    Kreg87, Mar 16, 2013, in forum: Newbies to Garden Ponds
    Replies:
    12
    Views:
    936
    Kreg87
    Mar 18, 2013
Loading...

Share This Page