ASAE Conference Proceeding
This is not a peer-reviewed article.
Manure Spill Emergency Management
J. M. Smith
Pp. 339-344 in Fifth International Dairy Housing Proceedings of the 29-31 January 2003 Conference, (Fort Worth, Texas, USA), ed. K. A. Janni. ,Pub. date 29 January 2003 . ASAE Pub #701P0203
A written, well thought out, common sense emergency management plan is vital to any livestock farm. First, if properly prepared by management and reviewed with employees, it will help prevent accidental spills. Also, it will be a plan whereby spills can be minimized and cleaned up properly if one does occur.
Management should definitely consider prevention of a manure spill as a high priority. As environmental regulations become stricter, prevention will be much less costly than clean up of a spill. Prevention is also more neighbor friendly.
A written emergency management plan could help the farm in a Court of Law if ever needed. Any manure spill problems should be recorded and saved for future review by management and employees, and kept in the files. This can be an excellent teaching instrument.KEYWORDS. Animal manure, Over application, Runoff, Emergency management plan, Environment, Environmental damage, Tile drainage, Marine life, Water control structure, Tile plugs, Written report
Application of animal manure to the cropland is an environmentally sound means of recycling nutrients. Over application of manure can lead to excess nutrients in the soil and/or significant runoff problems. Every farm and especially livestock farms should have an “Emergency Management Plan”.
What is an Emergency Management Plan?
It is a well thought out, common sense, written down plan of action. It will help those involved make the right decisions at time of emergency. (1-NPPC Emergency Action Plan)
WHY HAVE A PLAN:
Many states require a Manure Management Plan.
Plans are needed to eliminate or minimize environmental damage in cases of manure spills or runoff.
Most importantly to help prevent accidental manure spills.
WHAT SHOULD A PLAN CONTAIN:
First and foremost protect all human and livestock life.
Stop or eliminate the source of the spill or runoff.
Confine the spill or runoff to as small an area as possible.
Contact agencies that have expertise in handling spills or runoff.
Cleanup spills and runoff areas.
Liquid manure pushed or flushed into an earthen pit is a quick, easy, cheap way to handle a big problem. To a lesser extent this can also be said for concrete pits under slats or concrete and steel tanks above ground. However, some of the problems remain the same. The manure is liquid and can easily move when applied to the land.
Manure lagoons, concrete pits, above ground storages can and do overflow, or crack and leak at times. These storages should be routinely inspected. If manure is overflowing an earthen pit storage, more dirt can be added to the berm. However, it must be done properly by adding clay and packing very tightly. Also, some liquid can be pumped from the storage to relieve the overflow.
If burrowing animals have dug into the side of the earthen storage, they should be trapped out and the holes filled and firmly packed with clay. This will prevent the weakening of the sidewalls.
Concrete pits and above ground concrete or metal storages should be inspected for cracks and leaks. Any cracks and leaks should be repaired to prevent leakage and runoff.
We have about 170 liquid manure systems in our Ohio county. We know it is not a matter of if we will have a manure runoff problem but when. We have been fortunate there has not been a big problem, but there are manure spills. Every time there is a manure spill, it is costly to the farmer and gives the Agricultural industry a black eye. The media loves to show a manure spill with the dead fish.
What many farmers do not realize is their liability insurance policy does not cover a manure or pesticide spill, particularly the offsite clean up, on most insurance policies. You must have a special rider to be covered for offsite cleanup.
“The North Central Region of the United States is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the world and this productivity relies heavily on the practice of drainage. Agricultural drainage is the removal of excess water from the soil surface and/or soil profile of cropland, by either gravity or artificial means. Once land is drained, both positive and adverse water quality impacts can be documented. Compared to uncleared land under natural conditions, improved drainage and agricultural production usually increase peak runoff rates, sediment losses, and pollutant loads on surface-water resources. However, where land is used for agricultural production, improved drainage has been found to reduce runoff, peak outflow rates, and sediment losses, compared to undrained agricultural land.
Historically, the main reason for drainage on agricultural land has been to enhance crop production. Drainage removes excess water from the soil and helps to create a well-aerated root environment that enhances plant uptake of nutrients. Drainage on wet agricultural soils allows timely field operations, and helps plant growth to begin early, continue vigorously, and achieve improved levels of productivity.”(2-Zucker,L.A., et.al.)
Manure being pumped from a liquid holding tank of any kind will be 85% to 98.5% water. It must be high in water to be able to be pumped. The high water content makes it easy to be pumped. However, it also makes the manure very flowable and therein lies the problem.
Since liquids seek the lowest level, liquid manure is no exception. The lowest spots in a field are usually where the tiles have been installed. In heavy clay soils, dry weather brings cracks in the soil. Those cracks can be as wide as 1 ˝ to 2 inches. Cracks develop over the tiles, usually first, because of the drainage there. These cracks, many times, extend from the soil surface to the drain tile.
Now what happens when liquid manure is applied to these fields? Manure quickly runs down the cracks in the soil and into the tile. If the manure flow is continuous for a period of time, a significant amount of manure will find its way down the tiles and into the stream bed at the tile outlet.
Now here is where it can get very expensive. Manure pollutes the water and kills marine life, fish, mollusk, and whatever marine life is in its way. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division are funny about their marine life. They want to see marine life alive not dead. When they find dead fish and other marine life, DNR officials start to count them.
Every one of these little creatures has a price. Some more expensive than others depending upon species. Now, who pays for these dead marine animals? The farmer does, and the price can be very high. (3-Table 1-ODNR Document 22)
Work the Soil Surface
A recommended liquid manure application procedure is to first break the surface of the ground in the field where liquid manure is to be applied. Use a disk, field cultivator, or other equipment that will break that surface and help close the soil cracks. Many No-Tillers don’t like to disturb the soil surface, but it is important to do it, particularly if the field does not have a heavy residue cover.
As the field surface is being worked, it is also important to watch for tile blowouts. This is where a tile has broken and the soil has washed down the open tile leaving an open hole from the tile to the soil surface. This can be a place where liquid manure will readily find its way into a tile and out into a stream. A water control structure installed at the tile outlet will help prevent manure runoff from a field tile to an open stream.
Do Not Over Apply:
Another important way to avoid a problem is to not over apply. If the liquid manure system was designed to cover 100 acres when it is emptied, don’t put it all on 20 acres because it is easier and cheaper. That is a recipe for disaster. The recommendation is do not apply over ˝ inch per acre at a time or 13,500 gallons per acre. With high phosphorus hog manure, it is recommended to put on less than 13,500 gallons per acre. After that is absorbed, another application can be made. After a liquid manure application has been made, work it into the soil to save the nutrients and to reduce odor. If the manure has been injected into the soil, the nutrient and odor problem may already have been taken care of.
Water Control Structures
An excellent way to avoid runoff out of a tile into the outlet ditch is to have a “Water Control Structure” in place at the tile outlet. With the water control structure, the dams or stop slides can be put into place before liquid manure is spread on the field. This way all liquids can be shut off from running into the outlet ditch or stream.
Now after all precautions, how do you contain a spill if it happens? If it is a spill through a tile, there are inflatable tile plugs that can be used to plug the tile. That will give the operator an opportunity to stop the manure flow and do something else. If the weather is dry, wait 3-4 days after plugging the tile. Usually all the liquid manure will be absorbed back out of the tile.
If there is still liquid manure in the tile after 3-4 days, a backhoe can be used to dig behind the tile plug and into the tile, creating a sump, where the manure can be collected. Using a vacuum manure tank or a pump, the manure can be pumped out of the sump and distributed somewhere else.
Manure in a Stream
If the manure is already in the stream, call the required authorities. It is better if the operator reports the incident rather than having a neighbor or passerby report it. Then make every effort to contain the spill. A backhoe or tractor with a front blade can be used to dam the stream if the flow is not too great. Then measures can be taken to solve the problem by removing the manure laden water from that section of the stream.
If there is a heavy flow of water and the manure flow from the field has been stopped, then dilution of the manure may prevent further damage.
It is well to keep a written report of any spills or runoff situations. This report should be kept with the manure management plan for future reference and for emergency response training. The report should include what happened to cause the emergency, how the emergency was solved, what authorities were called, who responded, and how long did it take for authorities to respond.
Applying manure nutrients to crop fields is an environmentally friendly, cost saving way to use manure. However, an emergency action plan needs to be in place to help prevent manure runoff problems and to solve a problem after it has occurred. An emergency action plan can be used as a teaching tool for all employees and can help identify and prevent problems.
National Pork Producers Council.
Zucker, L.A.; Brown, L.C. Agricultural Drainage, Ohio State University Bulletin #871,1998.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, Wild Animal Prices.
Sheffield Emergency Action Plans.
Emergency Action Plan
Emergency Action Plan not available in html format, see PDF version
Table 1. Wild Animal Prices (Ohio Department of Natural Resources Inservice Document 22)
Price per Animal
Fresh Water Mussel
Salamander or Newt
Fresh Water Eel
Endangered/Threatened Wild Animal