Using city water

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by trayz, Aug 14, 2007.

  1. trayz

    trayz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 8

    Will the use of city water harm the microbes in the soil. If so, how would you solve the harm being done.
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Depends on what they use to treat the water, but in most cases no.

    Don't use city water or filter it.
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Chlorine or chloramine are the products used to keep our municipal drinking water bacteria free. Chloramine is the tool of choice these days as it is cheaper and will not gas off like chlorine.
    Chlorines could be gassed off by spraying the water out of the hose (it got rid of most of it) but chloramines have to be converted into other compounds that are less harmful to bacteria when using it for compost tea (CT) or the dilution of compost tea.
    If I was adding a small amount (1/2 gallon) of compost tea to a 4 gallon backpack sprayer the loss of bacteria will probably be minimal. The chlorine will be ineffective in a very short time.
    But if I was adding 10/15 gallons of CT into 300 or 400 gallons of chlorinated water I could loose most of the bacterial population in the CT.

    I did some testing through SFI on my product and found without a de-chlorinator 25 to 50% of the bacterial population was lost to the chlorine. These were tests adding 1 ounce to 1 gallon of chlorinated water, I did not try adding more ounces of Instant compost tea, this was actually a misinterpretation of my instructions to them but it did give interesting results.

    The cheapest de-chlorinator (yes it does chloramines as well) is Sodium Thiosufate, you can buy it very cheaply at the aquarium store premixed in liquid form or it comes in crystals. 1 - 4 pound container of crystals will dechlor 300,000 gallons and costs less than $5.00

    I know this is an older post but I thought it would be of interest since the compost tea discussion is going on at the same time.
  4. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504


    From my understanding, you can't use Sodium Thiosufate to remove chlorine from water as it will still kill micro organisms. You don't want to be using this in making your AACT.

    If you let chlorinated water stand for a few hours, the chlorine will be removed from the water by itself. Aerating the water will speed up the process as well. This process is free but only works with chlorinated water.

    Humic acid will complex the chlorine render it harmless. It also works on chloramines as well.

    Chlorinated water will de-gas as it leaves your sprinkler before it hits the ground.
  5. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I appreciate the enthusiasm but sodium thiosulfate is an excellent de-chlorinator for chlorine and chloramines and is very inexpesive to use.

    It is also safe for biology. In chloramines it releases the ammonia/chlorine bond.

    It is also an excellent anionic surfactant which helps dispurse Compost tea into the soil.

    Let me say this one more time, most municipalities do not use chlorine anymore
  6. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504


    I live in the Chicago area and my water supply is from Lake Michigan. And chlorine is used here in Chicago and they have no plans to switch to chloramines.
  7. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    That is good to know for your area
    Here in the Washington DC area they switched to Chloramines a long time ago (8 to 10 years)
    I brought the subject up so that people could be informed about what was going on with municipal water sources.
    The local water companies are very good about giving this kind of information out, if you have any questions about the water source call them.
  8. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504


    I asked Dr. Ingham about the effects of sodium thiosulfate on soil organisms and her results differ from what you have stated.

    From Dr. Ingham:

    "At SFI, we tested the effect of using water that had been treated with sodium thiosulfate to remove chlorine in comparison with the chlorinated water and in comparison with water from the well.

    We made tea with purified water, pH 7, normal sets of mineral levels, nothing out-of-line. The compost had good bacterial and fungal biomass (300 micrograms bacteria and 560 micrograms fungi) but protozoa were low (less than 1000 per gram). Doesn't matter what the recipe was, and I cannot reveal that anyway.

    We split the tea into four parts. Several replicate samples of each treatment, so, 16 replicate units all exactly the same.

    To the first set of units containing tea made with pure water, we added more pure water.

    To the second set of units, we added exactly the same volume, but used well water.

    To the third set of units, same volume but chlorinated water

    To the fourth set, chlorinated water to which the recommended (label rate) amount of thiosulfate had been added beforehand and allowed to react for the specified amount of time.

    Let the units aerate for an hour, and then test the tea for total bacteria, total fungi, and protozoa. I am going to round the results to the closest 10.

    Variation for bacterial biomass was 190, variation for fungi was 60

    Pure water units: Bacteria were 800, fungi 300
    Well water: Bacteria 950, fungi 240
    Thiosulfate treated water: Bacteria 220, fungi 5
    Chlorinated water: Bacteria 490, fungi 70

    How would you interpret those results? Pretty straight-forward, huh?

    First, notice who grew best in the tea....... bacteria. the compost was fungal, the tea ended up bacterial. good fungal biomasss in the tea, but still...... we don't need bacterial foods added into teas, it appears.

    Second, the well water had some definite problems, wouldn't you say?

    But let me point out that 800 and 950 are not significantly different given the variation from sample to sample. There aren't any problems in the scientific methods, but there are differences from ml of tea to ml of tea. There weren't any SIGNIFICANT effects on fungal biomass in the well water treatment. But I'd say, use a different well none-the-less.

    The effect of thiosulfate on bacteria was serious. The effect of thiosulfate on fungi was devastating.

    Realize that these data include species and individuals that will not and cannot grow on lab media. thus, these data include all species of bacteria and fungi, not just the ones that can grow on plates in the lab.

    Note that the thiosulfate treatment to remove chlorine resulted in fewer organisms than were in the water that had not been treated with thiosulfate, but still had chlorine in it.

    We have repeated these trials in a number of places, with pretty much the same results.

    Addition of thiosulfate to fish tank might actually be beneficial to the fish in the tank, because the thiosulfate treatment may actually reduce disease organisms in that water even more than chlorine alone. If the sulfate doesn't hurt your fish (some fish will be hurt by the sulfate released, or some other by-product of chlorine reaction with sulfate so be careful with that), then using thiosulfate may be great.

    Thiosulfate is just not great when we are trying to make tea with that water.

    How do you know that thiosulfate will do what we observe in our tests? Do your own tests. Don't expect plate counts to tell you what you need to know, however."

    Elaine Ingham
    President, Soil Foodweb Inc.
    SFI Corvallis, OR
    SFI Port Jefferson, NY
    SFI Lismore, NSW, Australia
    SFI Roxburgh, New Zealand
    SFI Culiacan, Mexico
    SFI Canada West, Vulcan
    SFI South Africa, Polokwane
    SFI England, Laverstoke Park
    SFI Canada East, Halifax

    Also, it doesn't sound very organic at any rate. Why use it? There are better ways to remove the chlorine or chloramines. Humic acid.
  9. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    A little background on chlorine and chloramines
    EPA Guidelines set a maximum allowed level of Chlorine of 4ppm. Most water supplies target 2-4 ppm Chlorine. Note that 4ppm of Chlorine is actually 5.8ppm Chloramine. (The Chlorine is 69% of the chloramine molecule, ammonia is the other 31%) So, with a possible 5.8ppm Chloramine, you have 4ppm Chlorine, and 1.8ppm ammonia.

    Average readings are around 2 parts per million in municipal water supplies. The recommended rates as a dechlorinator for sodium thiosulfate (ST) in water is 1.6 to 2.6 parts to one part chlorine. So lets take the extreme and say 2 parts chlorine times 2.6 parts ST. So we are dosing at 5.6 parts ST for 2 parts chlorine.

    Our solution is 13% ST, the rest is water. The recommended dosage is 1 drop per gallon of chlorinated water at 2PPM. So each drop actually contains 13% ST and 87% water. There are approximately 90,816 drops in a gallon of water. That comes out to a dilution ratio of well over 100,000 to 1, ST per gallon of water.

    Sodium Thiosulfate (Na2S2O2) reaction with chloramines in water, ST breaks the chlorine:ammonia bond. Chlorine (Cl) is reduced to harmless chloride (Cl- ) ion. The ammonia is released as NH3. So now we have 2PPM of Cl- and 0.66 PPM of NH3 in the water. I am trying to understand HOW, these 2 elements in this dosage are now considered anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.

    I am not disputing the results of the testing by Dr. E and the others that participated in these findings, on the contrary I find Dr. E’s work firmly scientific based. I will however have to keep judgment until I understand the exact composition of the ST that was used in the trials.
    In our testing with SFINY on our product, the bacterial numbers were cut in half when adding to chlorinated water in comparison to water with ST added before hand.

    I do need to point out that there is no comparison to AACT and 1 2 3 Instant Compost Tea. Our product is made to be administered in the field with municipal water sources. The companies that use our product typically pull up to a fire hydrant and fill up the tank add 1 2 3 instant compost tea and go spray. You can grow our product out and you will have a pretty impressive AACT, this however is not the application for our product.
  10. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    The whole point here is that if you used that material, it's not an organic product. You don't use something that will kill off the fungi you are trying to encourage. No thanks, I'll stay with my AACT.

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