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Red Oak - Gas Poison
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<Scott Young>
posted
We have discoved that there is a gas leak in our back yard close to our 25 year old Red Oak tree. We think the very heavy plastic and thick layer of rocks covering the ground under the tree kept us from smelling the gas and also contained it in the soil. Does anyone have any experience with trying to save an oak tree from gas poison, or is this just going to be a losing battle? We are having the plastic and rocks taken up and the plumbing replaced.
If anyone has any thoughts or ideas or experiences about this, will you please let me know?
Thanks so much!
 
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<Reed>
posted
Reply to post by Scott Young, on August 25, 2002 at 02:51:10:

Scott,
It's not clear if the gas is liquified petroleum or natural but you're in a situation that has to be treated as a hydrocarbon remediation. There are deadly build-up levels that traditional eradication methods involve soil removal, but microbial action can be initiated by stimulating some native bacteria that in turn allow for breakdown of hydrocarbon bonds.

A product called MEDINA Soil Conditioner (found at Home Depot) along with an adjuvant such as non-antibacterial dish soap can stimulate this process eliminating the need for disposal of the contaminated soil.

If unlike many postings here where the problems are outlined and remedies provided yet the poster never visits again, you're interested I can detail the application process for you.

We completed a federal contract at a retired Air Force Base where fuel leakage contributed to severe plant die-backs and our efforts at restoration were highly successful, saving millions in topsoil removal plans. Many of the grasses prospered and the trees after spiking with nutrients recovered over time.
 
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<Guy>
posted
Reply to post by Reed, on August 25, 2002 at 02:51:10:

Zvonka's aeration proposal (fill holes w expanded slate aggregae--perma-till) and Reed's bioremediation are two good steps. Getting rocks and plastic up and away are key.
Steps taken to enhance overall tree vigor will also help; see www.isa-arbor.org for consumer info on mature tree care, treatment, etc.
Mulching past the dripline is first step there.
 
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<Jeanette Young>
posted
Reply to post by Reed, on August 25, 2002 at 02:51:10:

Reed and Guy;
Thank you for responding to my son Scott's question about our oak tree. He is just trying to find us some help since we live in West Texas, and he is in Dallas. We knew we had big problems with our large red oak tree and have been trying to get some help and only on Saturday, August 24th we found out that our yard has a fairly large natural gas leak. I think that we could not smell it because of all the heavy plastic and very thick layer of rocks. We are trying to get the new gas line put in the next few days; the gas is completely turned off to the house. We do realize that the rocks and plastic must come up. We are not sure how far out we will need to go.
Any suggestions? We really appreciate all information.
Reed, We really need the application process you mention. I have also contacted you by e-mail.
Thanks so much for all past and future help!
Jeanette Young
 
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<Guy>
posted
Reply to post by Jeanette Young, on August 25, 2002 at 10:05:30:

Jeanette,

The new gas line will be as far from the tree as possible right?
A severed root is as bad as a poisoned one.
 
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<Jeanette Young>
posted
Reply to post by Guy, on August 25, 2002 at 20:15:26:

Guy,
Thanks for your concern. Yes we are going as far as we can from the tree. The reason we can not go any further is that we have an expensive covered large patio of redwook and outdoor ceramic tile. I guess that life is never simple.
Thanks again,
Jeanette
 
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<Russ Carlson>
posted
Reply to post by Scott Young, on August 25, 2002 at 02:51:10:

Whoa! Let's look at what's happening here, before jumping to conclusions and prescribing all sorts of things that may or may not be of use.

Two issues to address: 1) natural gas leak, and 2) installation of new pipes.

1) Natural gas is not necessarily a toxicant for tree roots. It causes death by indirect means- it drivew the oxygen from the soil, causing anaerobic conditions, and the roots (and other edaphic life) die. Foul septic odors occur when the condition persists and anaerobic bacteria propogate (usually feeding on sulfuric compounds- hence the odor).

The damage to the tree from the gas leak depends on many factors. How long did the leak persist? What is the texture (porosity) of the soil? How large of an area was affected? Where was the leaking pipe in relation to the tree? Age and size of tree, as well as species (which may influence root configuration).

Removing plastic will probably help. If the rock you mention is decorative stone, it probably won't help to remove it (won't hurt, necessarily, either). In any case, avoid any further root damage by digging or grading.

Aeration of the soil may be the best treatment. This will allow oxygen back into the soil, and vent the sulfuric compounds to some extent. Addition of mycorrhizal and other inoculant-type materials will not necessarily help, if the soil conditions will not first support their life. Also, if the damage to the soil is not yet too severe, they may not even be necessary.

this is one case where I would be hesitant to recommend mulch at first. This will be beneficial once the soil has been restored to some level of health. It will encourage better rooting, root growth and soil health, but can also impair air exchange. Likewise, hold off on fertilizer treatments, etc. until the tree is showing a reasonably good response on its own.

2) Installation of new pipes often means trenching, and that means cutting roots. This should be avoided if the tree was severely damaged and you want to try to preserve it. Consider tunneling under the roots if the pipe will be close to the tree. If you must trench, consider using an airspade device. this is a pneumatic tool that blasts the soil out with very little damage to the roots, cutting a trench that the pipes can be inserted into, while leaving the root system largly undamaged.

The American Society of Consulting Arborists can recommend highly qualified arborists and consultants in your area. Their web site and database is at
http://www.asca-consultants.org

or contact the main office at

American Society of Consulting Arborists
15245 Shady Grove Road
Suite 130
Rockville, MD 20850
(301) 947-0483
 
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<James Tuttle>
posted
Reply to post by Russ Carlson, on August 25, 2002 at 02:51:10:

Russ, thanks for your reply. I've actually seen the site. The tree is a 22" Shumard Oak. The line has already been replaced for about 3 weeks. The trench was about 15'deep and about 8' south of the trunk. In the trench cut, I only saw one 1" root that I thought was alive. There was suprisingly little surface roots at that interface of the soil and plastic. About half of the plastic and gravel had been removed. The gravel was over about 75% of the dripline (the rest is patio, storage bldg and house) and 3x that much area to the south. The soil is sandy loam.
How would you suggest aerating the soil? I have an airspade. James
 
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<Reed>
posted
Reply to post by James Tuttle , on September 08, 2002 at 19:08:27:

You still by description are facing hydrocarbon presence!
 
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<Russ Carlson>
posted
Reply to post by James Tuttle , on September 08, 2002 at 19:08:27:

Sorry for the delay- been out of town.

Aeration is intended to let gas exchange occur. Can the plastic be removed? How about punctured? An airspade might create several pits into the soil, then back fill with very coarse material- maybe pea gravel. Pits should be close together, maybe 2 to 3 feet.

Hydrocarbons are not that much of a problem now, as I understand it. They will soon volatilize, given a chance to vent. The greater problem may be other gases that have built up due to anaerobic conditions over time. Also, if the conditions were severe enough, there would be significant root loss, and the tree may be slow to respond.

Leaving the top 2 or 3 feet of the trench open a few weeks might be of help to vent gases.
 
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