• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education skip experiences global resources cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Anne Miller
  • Pearl Sutton
  • Nicole Alderman
stewards:
  • Mike Haasl
  • r ranson
  • paul wheaton
master gardeners:
  • jordan barton
  • John F Dean
  • Rob Lineberger
  • Carla Burke
  • Jay Angler
gardeners:
  • Greg Martin
  • Ash Jackson
  • Jordan Holland

Railway sleepers

 
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi, we have railway sleepers in our garden which were here when we moved in which occasionally leak what looks like black tar. If we were to remove them, how would we restore the soil close to them and how close could we plant vegetables to the area without it being an issue? Thanks!
 
master gardener
Posts: 2106
Location: southern Illinois.
508
goat cat dog chicken composting toilet food preservation bee solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't think there is an easy answer here.  I would remove them.....dig down in the soil below the point where there is a visible impact (maybe we.. below that point,) and have the soil tested.
 
steward
Posts: 8847
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
2543
hunting trees books food preservation solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Agree with John...  I'd remove them and at least a foot of soil on every side and two feet downwards.  Maybe more.  If there is a soil testing lab that could check for toxins in your area I'd do that to test the closest remaining dirt to where the sleepers were.
 
Posts: 26
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Are the sleepers in good enough (or fixable-enough) condition that you might want to repurpose them in some way, instead? Shed? Guest quarters? Chicken coop?

Removing them is going to be a pretty involved project, and apart from the tar-like substance, I'm wondering if there are tracks under them? I don't know what all is done to the ground in the track-laying and maintenance process, but I'm thinking removing all that might be a pretty big job.

OTOH, if the sleepers are beyond fixing anyhow, then I agree with the other posters: dig pretty widely and deeply. Pollution, sadly, travels pretty well in soil.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3643
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
114
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
There are species of mushrooms that help pull those toxins out of the soil (DON'T EAT THE MUSHROOMS) but I don't remember the name right now.

Then you only have to dispose of a few pounds of mushrooms instead of tons of soil.

BUT the bright side is....

A few used timbers for raised beds after they spent their useful life under a track don't leach that much anymore.  It isn't enough to bankrupt yourself trying to remove.  Remediate what you can, isolate the rest. Don't worry, the worry does the most damage.
 
Kelly Forster
Posts: 5
cat forest garden homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for all your responses, that's been really helpful! There aren't tracks under them so I'm going to look up the mushroom idea and then perhaps remove at a later date.
 
Posts: 33
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I hate to say this, but, many of the older wood preservatives included arsenic compounds, which have insidious mobility and bioaccumulation properties, including in fungus, I believe.
They change oxidation/reduction state and shift mobility depending upon conditions; it is a huge problem.
Unlike lead, I am not aware of a quick test, but arsenic in well water is a fairly widespread issue, so there might tests or services available.
 
pollinator
Posts: 254
53
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That really sucks Kelly. That tar is likely creosote/oil mix, which is toxic. It’s used to keep the RR ties from rotting. I’d be inclined to either remove a lot of surrounding soil or find a different spot to garden. The leakage contaminates groundwater so the sooner you get rid of them the better.
 
steward
Posts: 4163
Location: West Tennessee
1657
cattle cat purity fungi trees books chicken food preservation cooking building homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
If I may offer my thoughts also, I think removing the sleepers is best, and to echo what Julie noted in the post above mine, find a new spot to grow a garden.
 
John F Dean
master gardener
Posts: 2106
Location: southern Illinois.
508
goat cat dog chicken composting toilet food preservation bee solar wood heat homestead
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
To stress a point, there is no telling what kind of concoction they were treated with.  It was probably limited to the imagination of the workers.  Most likely they were not pressure treated but rather soaked in the preservative.  This would result in a greater likelihood of the substance leaching into the soil.
 
master steward
Posts: 4041
Location: USDA Zone 8a
1210
dog hunting food preservation cooking bee greening the desert
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here are some threads about removing toxins with mushrooms.  Oyster mushrooms seem to be the ones you will want.

https://permies.com/t/55469/Water-Filtration#864354

https://permies.com/t/94957/Oyster-Mushroom-growing-home

https://permies.com/t/25910/Mycoremediation-fixing-contamination-mushrooms
 
Kelly Forster
Posts: 5
cat forest garden homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks all, the sleepers are coming out!
 
This will take every ounce of my mental strength! All for a tiny ad:
Greenhouse of the Future ebook - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/greenhouse
reply
    Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic