Home Discussion Forum Tile Drainage Iron Ochre

This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of John Panuska John Panuska 4 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #1173
    Profile photo of Aaron Pape
    Aaron Pape

    Iron Ochre is a slimy, red-brown substance that can coat the inside of tile drains.  This jelly-like material is composed of iron deposits and bacterial slime.  Ochre is problematic, as it can clog drain tiles, often permanently, if it is not regularly removed.  You likely won’t know if you have an iron ochre problem until it reaches the outlet.

    Iron ochre is formed when ferric iron, dissolved in water, and iron oxidizing bacteria are both present in the drain tiles.  These conditions are often found in soils that are saturated for part of the year, or when tiles are draining groundwater from shallow water tables.  Certain soil types seem to be more susceptible to ochre formation that others.  Sandy soils sometimes contain readily dissolvable iron, so they may develop iron ochre shortly after the installation of tiles.  This is usually only a temporary infestation, and goes away within a year.  Muck soils and other soils with high organic matter are more troubling.  They can develop iron ochre permanently.

    Unfortunately, there is no solution to permanent iron ochre problems.  Ochre can be cleaned off the tile pipes with a high pressure water jet cleaner.  If you do have iron ochre forming in tiles, it is best to start cleaning as soon as possible, as ochre can harden and become impossible to remove.

    We found iron ochre in a tile system that we are monitoring in Shawano County.  We are concerned it will clog our instruments.  Check out the pictures.  It’s pretty nasty stuff.

    For more information on iron ochre and other tile issues, visit fyi.uwex.edu/drainageIMG_20170824_154156430IMG_20170824_154349561

  • #1176
    Profile photo of Kevan Klingberg
    Kevan Klingberg

    I have also seen iron ochre develop in surface waters at and near spring heads.  My personal experience with this has been in Chippewa County, WI.  You are right, it is slimy and concernable, especially as unsuspecting landowners wonder “what kind of pollution has gotten into my stream?”  It is naturally occurring, and it makes sense that, under the right conditions, it will be in tile line water, as well.  It very well may be a challenge as it gets into the sampling equipment.

  • #1182
    Profile photo of John Panuska
    John Panuska

    I have seen several articles on iron ochre and it can indeed be an on-going problem requiring on-going maintenance.  There do not appear to be any permanent solutions. The UWEX Drainage Web Site has a couple of good references from the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Food.  The UWEX site can be found at fyi.uwex.edu/drainage/,  select the Web Resources tab then scroll down to the section on Iron Ochre in Tile Drains.  To control iron ochre they mention both high and pressure cleaning methods.  The use of chemicals is not recommended.  I would be interested to know what approaches people here in WI have used successfully to control iron ochre.  It would also be good to know what has not worked.

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