Did we Strike Oil?

April 26, 2013

Three weeks ago, Nancy noticed a sheen over the standing water at the Orchard. We call this our wetland feature (though it’s very dry in the summer). It’s near the blueberries that Justin planted and it’s one of the reasons we always wear boots and roll up our pant legs up.

The next week Justin noticed the sheen. Sure enough, when you stand and look from a place where the sun hits the water, it’s there. A sheen that looks like it might be oil.

We discussed the relationship of the orchard surface to the freeway surface and we are pretty sure that the orchard is above the freeway. Nevertheless, water moves in strange ways at that spot. In the spring, you can pull out a shovelful of dirt and water gushes in sideways!

As Nancy was walking home, it hit her that there could be an old oil tank underground. Before the freeway was built, there were houses where the orchard is. We often wonder if the drainage is poor there due to the remaining house foundations. Could someone have forgotten to take out an oil tank? We need to test a sample of that water.

I called up Amtest in Kirkland and spoke with a helpful employee who said she would charge me $50 for a test, but that I might want to try the sniff test first. You take a one-liter canning jar and fill most of it with the standing water. (The water has started to retreat, but I just made a hole with the shovel and the water drifted back in.) You put the lid on and wait two hours so any pressure can build up. Then, take the lid off and inhale. If it smells like gas then have it tested. If it smells like a swamp, it’s Mother Nature and bacteria are producing the sheen.

It smelled like a swamp and nothing else. What a wonderful smell!


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