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Hi all,

I'm adding bentonite to my leaking pond. Does anyone have experience with spreading betonite? I know the procedure, but I would like to hear from someone who has actually used it. I'm using the powdered form because it's the only type available to me. I'd like to know how thick to lay it or if tilling it into existing soil is effective. I'm also considering covering it with hay in place of overlaying it with soil. My real problem areas are bedrock sections located in the pond bottom. I'm certain the bedrock is cracked and I'm fairly certain most of my leakage is through bedrock. Thanks in advance for the help.

Dusty

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Dusty, I've tried it with either no luck or no skill. I believe Texas Sodium Bentonite is in Comanche. Give them a call and ask for advice. BTW, I didn't do that before I tried it.


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Thanks, Dave,

I have a local supplier who has the powder so I'm okay with that. I'm draining what's left of the water in the pond so I'll be able to lay on top. Everyone I've talked to locally about adding betonite to leaking ponds tells me it works. I'll know myself in a few months maybe. For now, I'm looking for advice on how to spread and cover it. The supplier tells me to use 100 pounds for 25 square feet, but T A&M says 50 square feet. That's quite a difference in coverage. The biggest issue with the powder is that it can blow away. That's one reason I'm tilling into the existing soil. But I don't know if that's an effective method because, honestly, I'm not sure how Bentonite works. I don't know if it has to form its own seal or if it can combine with sandy soil and create a thicker mud that prevents seepage. I'm hoping it will combine. I can say for sure that it turns my sandy soil into a much thicker, pliable and sticky substance.

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The biggest issue I found was sweating and getting it on me. That stuff turns into jello pretty quickly. Also, be sure to wear a mask. You don't want it in your lungs. I have one big pond and 5 small ponds on my place. All leak. On one, I put bags down and covered the bottom. Then broke the bags and disked it in with my tractor. It didn't work and I figure it must have been my fault. I haven't tried it again.


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dhill, Bentonite is a clay and when the small clay particles (powder) comes into contact with water, the clay will swell due to it absorbing the water. Due to the swelling of the clay it will cover an area thicker than just a dry powder would or thicker than a polymer might be. If you are going to all the trouble listed to solve your leak, I would suggest not being stingy with the amount of bentonite added to pond bottom. Add extra bentonite. It is my opinion, if bentonite did not reduce leakage, then not enough of it was added in the first place. I have been working with bentonite outside the pond arena for close to 40 years. I might even use more than A&M suggested. It Depends

Last edited by TGW1; 05/03/17 06:51 AM.

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One more thing, bentonite basically forms it's own seal so to speak. If one tills it into the soil they would also most likely need it added on top of the tilled in area. When building a pond, everyone is told you will need clay in the pond bottom, so u look for thick clay layers when pond building. Bentonite is clay, build a thick layer so to speak.


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If you till in bentonite, you will then need to thoroughly compact the tilled area. Insufficient compaction of the bottom and dam allows leaking. I know from experience.

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dhill1 Offline OP
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Thanks Dave. Thanks TGW1.

I think the trick is to get a solid layer laid over the area, as you said TGW1. I'll spread the bottom, especially the bedrock, with a heavy layer. It's possible to cover the betonite with soil, but it would be a heavy chore. I can easily cover it with hay bales. Do you think the hay would work as a "lid" for the bentonite. And as a corollary question, is there anything wrong with putting hay in the bottom of a pond?

Thanks for the advice guys.

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Hay in the deeper anaerobic areas will only add to the sludge load. In limited shallow areas a thin layer of hay will contribute to plankton growth and give fry a temporary place to hide from predators. I wouldn't overdo the hay. I suspect putting multiple bales into a pond would cause a toxic condition when it fills.

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I see no benefit using hay bales and I might have some concern with the hay causing too much of a bloom as water rises. I started my first bloom using a qtr bale of dehydrated alfalfa. And as John said, compacting bentonite would be beneficial. I see no problem adding soil on top of the bentonite. add bentonite compact, add soil on top compact again. And again after all that, I suggest don't short change yourself on the bentonite additions.


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dhill1 Offline OP
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Thank you guys. I have a much better understanding of what I'm trying to do now. What I'm hearing is that I need to lay the bentonite as thick as possible, cover it with soil, and then compact it. If I do this, I should form a nice mud layer in the pond that should prevent leakage, at least the volume of leakage that I've experienced. Thank you John for explaining about the hay. I'll leave it out. The bedrock is my biggest concern, but I think if I cover it thick enough, I should be able to seal those cracks. Thanks again to all of you.

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dhill1, I would also consider doing it a different way. I don't think anyone on this forum has sealed a leaky pond using bentonite/clay alone. Especially if you have rocks to contend with.

I think the only sure way to seal it would be if you could completely isolate the current bottom and the rocks in it with several, several thick layers of compacted clay. That means really good quality sticky clay, 6-8" layers, each layer compacted with the proper compaction tool (not just riding over it with equipment), and then do that several times. That means trucking in tons of clay and if you can do that and do it right, you probably will be happy.

If you cannot do that, then trying to do lesser clay quality, less thick layers or fewer number of layers and the hoping the bentonite will make up for that by its 'sealing' properties is probably not going to work.

Then your plan B is to read what you can about soilfloc on this forum. This is a plastic polymer that can make the best of a poor pond bottom when it is decided that proper construction was not used the first time, or that you can't drain, start over with proper clay, proper layers, proper compaction etc. The goal then would be to hopefully prepare the bottom by removing leaves, organic material, vegetation to allow the product to get to the bottom. Then when applied properly and in proper amounts, it does a pretty good job of going into the cracks and 'sealing' them. There have been many more success stories on this forum using soilfloc than just adding some bentonite and hoping it will seal the bottom for you.

Some have tried a hybrid solution with bentonite AND soilfloc but the jury is out on that from what I have read here on the forum.

If you are interested in trying that route, we have a PB expert here who can help and there are some good threads about that.

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dhill1 Offline OP
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Thanks, Canyon,
I'm not familiar with soilfloc. I have no idea if it's available to me or how expensive it might be.
I've pumped the water from the pond. It's a clean bottom, no vegetation, no debris. It has a layer of sandy soil because my soil here is quite sandy. In places, that layer is thick, but it's also permeable, I'm fairly certain. When I mix bentonite with that soil, it becomes much thicker and stickier. But I also have places in the bottom that's bare rock, sand stone. I think that's my main problem area. So will soilfloc cover the bedrock and fill the cracks? I only have a few days to finish this project before rain puts water back into the pond.
Thanks for the advice on packing the bentonite. I'll definitely attempt to pack it solid.

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Here is a VERY long thread about soilfloc. Since your specific concern relates to a situation that few of us have encountered (bedrock in the bottom of the pond) you might want to instant message TJ by clicking on his profile in one of the posts on the page of the tread that I link to below, and see if he can talk you through whether soilfloc would have a chance of helping in your specific case.

You have it right, now is the time to do it right. Soilfloc is not expensive relatively speaking since hauling in clay, renting a sheepsfoot roller and paying someone to do the layers and compaction will be costly too. Doing the bentonite now and then finding out by fall that you will get to do something else again in the future because it didn't give the results you hoped for is expensive (and frustrating) too.

Soilfloc thread (there are several others too)

Last edited by canyoncreek; 05/04/17 11:50 AM.
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Bentonite, to seal, needs to be tilled into the soil to a minimum 12" depth, then be properly compacted with a Vibratory sheepsfoot roller at a vibration frequncy that will compact one foot, or more, deep, A standard pull=type sheepsfoot roller can be used, if pulled over 2, 6" lifts. Spreading a layer of plain bentonite over the surface, will not seal at all.

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Perfect scenario for SoilFloc polymer - happy to help in any way I can.


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