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Demonstration shows need for manure spill action plan
By DOROTHY NOBLE
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (July 28, 2015) — “This is real manure — note the wind direction,” Kevin Erb warned the crowd gathered to watch the manure spill demonstration at the North American Manure Expo on July 15.
Erb, a conservation professional development and training coordinator at the Environmental Resources Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the onlookers that notifying the authorities quickly is essential in the event of a spill. Informing the regulatory agency personnel is far preferable to the difficulties that can arise when they learn of a spill from the media.
Obviously, 911 should be called immediately if any injuries occurred and for any road incidents.
A spill plan, including a backup plan, should be in place on the farm, he said.
Keeping the manure from entering waterways, ditches and wells is particularly important. Erb pointed to the terrain surrounding the demo site, calling attention to an area with trees, which could indicate a nearby well.
Today, Erb noted there are various kinds of equipment, but high-speed equipment is not needed.
Erb used water to flush the spill for the demonstration and asked, “How clean is clean?” He noted that in general, 85 to 90 percent of the solids should be removed.
Three gallons of fresh water is required for each gallon of manure that is spilled.
At the demonstration area, an eight to nine inch ditch had been created to illustrate how a dam could be used to contain the area. Then a vacuum truck or sump pump can be employed to suck up the spill.
However, a soil excavation creates a worse environmental problem, he said, because typically an erosion situation develops.
When managing a spill, farmers should know where underground cables, etc. are located. That type of data should be incorporated into the spill plan.
An accidental spill may not be prosecuted; however, the farmer must pay for the damages. Not reporting the spill is asking for trouble.
Penn State’s Department of Dairy and Animal Science distributed spill response guidelines at the demonstration site.
The guidelines provided additional advice, including stopping the flow at the source, especially if from manure storage, diverting the spill from water inlets, collecting the spill and applying to cropland, documenting the details of the spill and cleanup, plus cooperating with authorities.
Soil, bedding material, waste feed, hay and straw bales can be used for building the containment dam.
In the event of a road spill, Penn State recommends carrying flags, safety triangles and flares in vehicles.
During the demonstration, Erb stressed the importance of acting quickly to assure safety, minimizing the damage, and restoring the spill area.