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Take Time for Basin Maintenance

When DNR field staffers inspect earthen basins they look for problems which could cause leaks, basin failures or fish kills.

Cindy Martens, a senior specialist from the Spencer office offers these fixes for the most common problems. “First and foremost, protect the basin’s berm,” she says.

  1. Maintain a good grass stand to prevent erosion and burrowing animals. Keep grass and weeds mowed to make it easier to inspect for leaks, erosion and burrowing. 
  2. Plug holes left by burrowing animals with clay or bentonite.
  3. Cut down woody vegetation and apply root killer to prevent tree roots from penetrating the berm and damaging it.
  4. Maintain at least 2 feet of freeboard. Not only is it required by state law, it helps prevent overtopping and breaches when unexpected gully washers come along. Land apply in spring and fall, if necessary.
  5. Inspect the inlet piping to make sure incoming liquids enter the basin away from the berm. Check for erosion under the piping. Protect the berm with rip rap where needed. 
  6. Remember the basin is for manure only, not garbage, or vaccination and artificial insemination equipment. Remove all waste and inform workers to follow this procedure.
  7. Notify DNR if closing a basin. DNR staff can give you proper closure procedures to prevent future water quality problems. We’ll also visit during a closure if we are able to.

Find more information about earthen basin operation and maintenance on the DNR’s AFO fact sheets page. While not common problems, DNR staff check for signs of seepage, overflows and discharges. Inspectors also look for livestock damage and storm water entering the basin. When there’s an issue, DNR staff will explain the problem, leave a copy of the inspection form and ask for problems to be fixed.

“The most important thing is to protect your investment,” Martens says. “And, from our perspective and yours, keep the basin intact to protect water downstream.”

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