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#303001 - 08/13/12 11:25 AM Mowing the money pit
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
Dear Pond Boss community, In my online searches over the last two years for direction on my 3/4 acre pond construction project, the top results are often from Pond Boss. After not being able to retain water in my pond for two years now I wanted to post my dilemma directly. My passive searches are not yielding a clear best course of action so my confusion continues.

Worse yet my wife is losing patience in my grand project and is urging me to just have the dry monster sized hole in our backyard filled in, but my argument is that the money to do so can just as easily be put toward a fix to the problem. I'll explain what has been done up to this point with the hope that your collective experiences and expertise will yield a solution.

The back of our 5 acre property gradually slopes downward as well as our neighbors 5 acre lot which angles their runoff to our pond site also.

I had contractor #1, a local reputable expert in excavation dig the key for the dam. He dug a 6'-8' wide trench about 12'-15' deep down to bedrock for a length of 300'. It was like walking on a concrete floor. After removing about 6 boulders at a few tons each, the key was completely clear and he said conditions could not look better.

After stripping off and stock piling all the top soil from the pond area, contractor #2 began transferring loads of the clay soil down into the key and packing down layer after layer to construct the dam and placed my new fossil encrusted decorative boulders around the high side bank area.

I had him construct all banks with a 3to1 slope but due to the limited ability of his equipment and the draught conditions at the time, he was only able to dig out the pond to a 4'-8' depth before his equipment could no longer dig through the soil which he said was like concrete at that point. Soil packed between the teeth on the dozer tracks formed clay like bricks that you could hardly break apart.

I obviously wanted the pond deeper so enters contractor #3 with bigger equipment and more than 30 years experience in excavating and now digging ponds in his retirement. He took the depth down to an average depth of 7'-8' with a deep area down to about 10'. He also reworked the dam and spillway area refining what the less experienced contractor #2 had done. At this point I had what looked to be a beautifully constructed pond.

My son and I then walked the pond bed collecting golf ball to baseball sized rocks to build up a stone cap for the narrow 6' wide spillway to help prevent erosion. These slick multi-colored rocks were all the same and with a little research we confirmed it is all flint chert. After having essentially a rock free pond and dam I spent a couple weeks driving my tractor over every square inch of the area compacting it further and further.

At this point we were just waiting for rain and the following winter and spring seasons brought plenty, and at one point the pond was about 3/4 full. After time though all that water seeped out to the point that the bottom of the pond was bare again except for the 10' round hole that was dug an extra 3'-4' deep which I thought some future fish would enjoy. I was told this wasn't unusual for a new pond and that I need to be patient.

Just to be proactive though I spread out 2 pails of the granular stuff that pond doctor sells but the problem didn't get any better. In fact, from last summer to this summer the pond has been used as a play area for our kids ATV's and I actually have to get in there with my AWD tractor about once a month to mow the weeds that have taken root in the pond bed and inside slope of the dam.

I'm lost at this point. All potential fixes seem so expensive and I can't afford to get it wrong. Bentonite? Liner? Soil concrete? The vegetable oil stuff? Imported clay? Hogs? What in the world do I need to do to get this freakin big hole that looks water tight to actually hold water? I'm just willing to bet that if I didn't want it to hold water, it would be full to the brim.

After 3 contractors and a purchase from Pond Doctor I'm well invested financially and in time at this point and really starting to stress over this whole deal. Is there a real pond expert out there that can come look at my site and just tell me what needs to be done? Money spent toward it now is a real point of contention with my wife which now refers to it as the money pit and I can't really argue against her point. I need a darn near bullet proof plan that doesn't cost a fortune. Thanks in advance to the Pond Boss community for any help you can offer to someone who really wants to be a proud pond owner. Sorry for such a long post. Sincerely, Kevin

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#303011 - 08/13/12 12:51 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
catmandoo Offline
Moderator
Ambassador
Field Correspondent

Lunker

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 5680
Loc: Hampshire Co., WV
Kevin,

Welcome to Pond Boss. I don't think you can find a more knowledgeable group than this.

I unfortunately don't have an answer for you. It seems like you've done all the right things. I am a little bothered that you say you and your son collected lots of rocks from the bottom. In the ponds and dams I've been involved with, the bigger rocks were removed, and the smaller rocks virtually disappear after compacting the soil.

It really sounds like some part under your pond has gravel/rocks/sand or a spring, that allow the water to percolate out. Sealing with lots of clay is one method -- but, you would need a lot.

Hopefully, somebody a lot more knowledgeable than me will come along with some good questions and answers. We have a lot of members in your area who may be able to assist.

Regards,
Ken
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#303012 - 08/13/12 01:03 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: catmandoo]
fish n chips Offline


Registered: 09/06/11
Posts: 2315
Loc: Northeast Ohio
Welcome, and too bad it's troubles that you here.

I was left wondering also--- you said the second contractor who built the rest of the dam had to stop working on the center of the pond because of the lack of the proper equipment. This makes me wonder, did he then at least have a sheepsfoot roller while he was packing the dam?

Why did the first contractor not do the whole pond?

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#303013 - 08/13/12 01:07 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Cody Veach Offline


Registered: 09/20/10
Posts: 384
Loc: Central PA
How did they compact your clay... just driving over with heavy equipment does not work, trust me. You need lots of clay and compact it in the 3 lifts with sheeps foot roller.

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#303027 - 08/13/12 03:02 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
nils olson Offline
Fingerling

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 44
Loc: wisconsin
All clay is not created equal, it must be the right stuff or you are wasting money. The clay must be able to ribbon in your fingers. We found good clay and fortunately 8-10" sealed our pond. All excavators are not pond builders. And yes you do need a sheepsfoot roller to compact. It took us four years to find out these things from the first attempt at pond construction.

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#303087 - 08/13/12 10:06 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
Thank you for the warm welcome and replies. Any and all help and info is greatly appreciated. The chert in the base of the pond and dam was not exposed until after a couple rain showers eroded just enough soil to see all these small pieces of flint. They did not heavily cover the area though, gathering all of them was more like an easy Easter egg hunt. Maybe got 500-800lbs stacked at the top of the spillway and that was about it for the rocks.

Contractor #1 had a very large excavator as needed to dig the key, but suggested contractor #2 to do the rest and actually coached him on what needed to be done. Contractor #1 basically said you don't want to pay me to do this (being the owner of the largest excavating company around here) when contractor #2 can do it for so much less. My project was probably just to small for him really.

Contractor #2 did build up the dam and constantly compacted, but not with a sheepsfoot roller. That has not proven to be a problem yet I don't believe though because the bowl shape of the pond bottom seldom fills up to the base of the dam before seeping into the ground, with exception of this 10' round hole that is about 4' deep which never goes dry. That one little area always holds water, even during the hot draught we had this summer.Why the bottom would leak everywhere else but not in that hole I have no idea.

Contractor #3 removed a lot of earth and commented how hard the soil was. Driving his large dozer through about a foot of water he didn't sink at all. There is a local guy that sells used billboard tarps that can be bonded together to make any size. He charges about half what I see them going for online but I would have to bond the together with the vinyl cement myself. Would this make sense? And recently I started reading about soil concrete for water retention. I'm just grasping at straws here and that's why I turning to the experts.

Thanks again, Kevin

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#303121 - 08/14/12 10:00 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Cody Veach Offline


Registered: 09/20/10
Posts: 384
Loc: Central PA
If its not holding water it has proven to be a problem. Only way your going to get it to hold water is line it with properly compacted clay.

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#303123 - 08/14/12 10:21 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
liquidsquid Offline


Registered: 11/20/11
Posts: 1928
Loc: East Bloomfield, NY USA
As a quick check to see if it is the soil or a hole, give the soil a bucket test. Search the forums for more info, but I believe you take a 5-gallon bucket, drill in a bunch of holes in the bottom. Add soil from pond bottom to the bucket about half-way, and compact somehow. Pour in water and see if anything comes out of the bottom.

I would be curious to see if the soil leaks in this test, and even more curious to see if adding water softener salt to the bucket would make any difference if it does leak.

I tried this, but my initial test didn't leak so I couldn't test the softener salt idea. The theory is ion exchange in the clay allows it to go from granular clumpy clay bits to slick mushy clay that plugs well.
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#303153 - 08/14/12 12:51 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
Cody Veach, What I meant to say was the dam itself has not really had opportunity to prove itself as a problem because the bowl shape of the pond bottom will drain sooner than the water level can actually reach the base of dam. The pond bottom on the other hand has proven to be a problem, but whatever other problems the pond may have are just a guess at this point.

By stating that clay is the only way, do you mean to say a vinyl liner or soil concrete which I mentioned would not work? I would guess they would work but I'm to ignorant on the subject to state that as fact. Thanks for your insight and I will count this as a vote toward clay.

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#303158 - 08/14/12 01:16 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
Liquidsquid, Thank you very much for the tip. This proof in the pudding stuff I like. I will look it up and do this test tonight. I have the softener salt just in case too. I can do this several times and try the various topical treatments and see what works, starting with the cheapest first of course. Sounds like a very good idea.

I remember talking to the pond doctor people and they said specifically not to compact with a sheepsfoot roller and I think I saw it on their website too. He basically said it was just a commonly accepted fallacy. I don't have the answers so I'm glad there are experts that do. What would be really great is if the experts actually had the same answer. Contridiction makes it so hard to discern fact from conjecture.

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#303175 - 08/14/12 02:28 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
catmandoo Offline
Moderator
Ambassador
Field Correspondent

Lunker

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 5680
Loc: Hampshire Co., WV
Kevin,

I think you've hit the soft underbelly with many of us. We're just glad this didn't happen to us. It is a nervous moment when the earth moving equipment arrives, you are now committed, and you just hope the hole holds water when they get done.

I sent you a PM with some additional ideas and contacts.

As for using concrete or and EPDM liner versus clay, the big issue would be cost. If you can't determine where the water is leaking out, you will have to line the entire 3/4 acre area. IMO, concrete or an EPDM liner, for that size area would be quite expensive. You may be able to find clay for free or very inexpensively. Even if you have to pay for it, it would probably still be far less expensive than the other two alternatives.

Regarding the sheepsfoot roller -- where I've lived for the last 40 years, it is not necessary. Heck, tractor ruts in my fields, after I bushhog, will hold water for a couple of weeks. Instead of your problem, getting a conventional septic tank and drainfield approved is rather difficult. Our land just doesn't perc -- in most places.

We put in two ponds on our place this past year. The 1/4 to 1/3 acre pond was compacted with a road roller after the dozer and trackhoe were done. It filled up a week later after a storm, and has stayed at full pool throughout this summer. The other pond was much smaller and will be used as a koi pond, maybe 20 x 50, and about 3-4 foot deep. It was excavated with a backhoe and small excavator. The pond itself was not compacted at all. The dam was compacted with the excavator tracks. It too has been near full pool since last spring.

So, as our good friend Bill Cody always says .... "it depends."

Good luck,
Ken
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#303192 - 08/14/12 04:28 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Bob-O Offline
Ambassador
Field Correspondent
Lunker

Registered: 01/24/06
Posts: 2300
Loc: Butler In. Very NE corner
Hi ya Pennwood, sorry to here about your probs. I am not very schooled on soil, excavating, packing or dirt work in general but will relay my personal experience. Had a 1/4 acre hole dug before I did enough research and now have a ground water level pond. If you have'nt come across this term it describes a hole that has a gravel/sand/spring at a specific level that allows water to equal itself out between your hole and the surrounding aquifer level. If anyone can clarify this, please do. When my hole was dug I was even more ignorant than I am presently. About a week after it was done I was standing on my beach looking across the hole to the overflow. I noticed a white line slightly moving about 3' below what would be full pool. Went over and up close found that it was hundreds of Cabbage butterflies getting a drink at a gravel vein that was seeping water. Did'nt figure out till later that the water flows both ways depending on which side has the more pressure. Consequently when the hole fills up and is a 12' deep pond the pressure pushes the water through the gravel out into the aquifer thus reducing it to a 9' pond. My guess is that your existing water in the additionally 4' deeper section may have a connection to the surrounding aquifer. Again, I don't know shoes from shineola but would guess that if you pumped out the permanent water and the deep part fills back up before outside water enters you've got your problem narrowed down. Maybe as simple as filling the "future honey hole" back up with good, properly compacted clay. Hope maybe Otto or some other dirt expert will weigh in on my theory. Best of luck and buy momma something real nice BEFORE you spend another penny on your clay hole that you want to smell like fish!!!! Do that and maybe when it fills she may agree that stocking it would be worthwhile.Bob=O
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#303194 - 08/14/12 04:33 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
fish n chips Offline


Registered: 09/06/11
Posts: 2315
Loc: Northeast Ohio
With what I am understanding so far: the water never rises to the bottom of the dam, water level drops to this hole, and the hole always has water.

Heres a shot in the dark......Could it be that the water in the hole is at water table level, thus staying at that level all the time. Then in that water hole could be a passge way that lets water in and also lets water out. Usually by me, if you hit that kind of situation the water either drains completely out, but more often gushes out filling the whole(thus creating a spring).

I would be tempted to try and pump that hole out with a trash pump and see how quickly it fills back in. If it does, you may have hit a spring that is also letting the water out. Then you would only have that spot to line with clay(I think)....Just a thought, worth only a penny.

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#303218 - 08/14/12 07:32 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...


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#303219 - 08/14/12 07:32 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...


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#303220 - 08/14/12 07:33 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...


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#303232 - 08/14/12 08:17 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
It's coming back to me now. I remember contractor #3 when we were digging this 10'-12' hole that is 4'-6' deep, saying we better stop here because he didn't like the look of the soil we were getting out. I was running the back hoe and he was driving the dump truck which I guess serves as an example of how cheap and OCD I am. The more I look at it the more it resembles a big drain at the lowest point of my pond. Even if this isn't the problem, I think you guys are very insightful in giving me this test to try. I'll start collecting the gear to get it pumped out and also will be doing the bucket test. Thank you very much and I look forward to posting some results. I hope to justify a healthy donation to Ask The Boss very soon. Thank you, Kevin

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#303250 - 08/14/12 09:13 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
fish n chips Offline


Registered: 09/06/11
Posts: 2315
Loc: Northeast Ohio
We have a lot of gravel companies around us and I had one test our dirt in various areas to see if it was worth anything to them. They would take their track hoe and dig a deep hole staright down as fast as they could as deep as they could before the hole would get a chance to start collapsing. They would get about 20' down. I would be there and take a look down that hole. I will never get over what I saw. There was literally a fast flowing river coming out one side of the hole and it was leaving the other side just as fast. It was a bit of an eerie feeling.

Does the water in that hole stay cold like spring water?

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#303260 - 08/14/12 10:16 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
John Wann Offline
Hall of Fame


Registered: 05/16/12
Posts: 1674
Loc: Phelps county, Missouri
This whole situation would be torcher for me. I wood have no hair left.
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RES,HBG,YP,HSB,SMB,CC,and FHM. .seasonal trout.

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#303277 - 08/15/12 04:00 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
hang_loose Offline
Lunker

Registered: 09/01/08
Posts: 888
Loc: Sunbury,Ohio
Pennwood1, Sorry to hear about your pond troubles. But with that much chert (flint), you could go to some Pow Wows and sell some of that flint. Pow wows are American Indian artifact shows that have a lot of arrowhead and any flint utinsel makers there. And they are always looking for good flint for their craft. You could maybe use some of that money to recoup your losses. I've seen some of their work and it looks better than the real ones.

Good luck Kevin...I wish you the best!!!

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#303279 - 08/15/12 05:16 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
NCMike Offline


Registered: 01/27/12
Posts: 105
Loc: NC
This is exactly my fear with trying to build a pond rather than buy proprety with one on it already.....I can only imagine the feeling in your gut.

I hope it works out well for you and it is a realtively easy fix.

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#303285 - 08/15/12 08:53 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
I also took a short video when I shot those photos last night but it took until this morning for it to be available for viewing. With each eroding rain it seems we can see more exposed flint from golf ball to baseball sized. After we built up the spillway I just started chucking them over the back of the dam. I literally have tons of this material and just looked to see that someone on eBay is selling the same chert flint I have but in smaller pieces at $4.99 for 1/2 pound lots plus shipping. Don't know if he is actually getting buyers but I would be thrilled to get just a small fraction of that. I could keep my 3 kids busy after school for a long time collecting, cleaning and sorting flint. At this point I'm up for anything! My 8yr old son retained more of what the expert told us than I did and can identify the different types better than me. Now I need to drain a hole, do some bucket tests and start a stone reclamation business. The things I'll do for the luxury of being able to go fishing in my backyard, and to stop feeling like a fool in front of my neighbors. At least in the meanwhile my son loves playing down there. A boy, dirt, hills, neat rocks, frogs, and all kinds of animal tracks in the mud to identify. He may actually be a little sad when I figure out how to flood his playground. He loves to fish to though so he will be happy either way.


Pond Problem

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#303287 - 08/15/12 09:08 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...
Thank you very much hang_loose for the tip!!! What a blessing it would be if the pond could actually pay for its own repair, or at least chip in. Wife law which has gotten stricter after our 20 years dictates that one toy must be sold before buying another. This chert could save me from selling my fishing boat which she claims won't be needed after the pond is fixed. I'm glad she's so dang practical, or at least sometimes I am.

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#303291 - 08/15/12 10:17 AM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
esshup Offline
Moderator
Ambassador
Field Correspondent

Lunker

Registered: 01/26/09
Posts: 24028
Loc: Grovertown, Indiana
I looked on e-bay and the chert IS selling for around $1/lb plus shipping. Actual completed auctions.

If you PM me a link to the auction I can check on it for you.


Edited by esshup (08/15/12 10:21 AM)
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#303316 - 08/15/12 12:48 PM Re: Mowing the money pit [Re: Pennwood1]
Pennwood1 Offline


Registered: 08/12/12
Posts: 13
Loc: Charlestown, Clark County, Ind...

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