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Avoid Spills and Fish Kills - 9 Tips for Successful Land Application

  • 10/4/2021 10:02:00 AM
  • View Count 1611
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“We’re in the midst of a long-term dry spell, that started more than two years ago,” says Tim Hall, DNR’s hydrology resources coordinator. “It will take us a long time to get out of this.”

Stream levels are low, soil moisture is depleted and we are heading into the driest months of the year. So, look out manure applicators—even the smallest spill could have a significant impact on streams.  

“Fish and other aquatic critters like crayfish have been stressed enough already this year,” says Trent Lambert, supervisor in the Mason City field office. From his many years as an environmental field specialist, Lambert offers the following advice.

  1. Be diligent and pay attention during pumping and land application.
  2. SLOW DOWN. Many past manure spills occurred when tanker rigs missed a corner or field drive, or simply drove down the road too fast.
  3. Avoid waters. Don’t run the umbilical hose along a creek, under bridges or in areas with tile intakes. A lot of spills we’ve seen through the years resulted from an equipment failure. When this happens near a stream, spill impacts are almost always worse.
  4. Whether dry or liquid manure, don’t surface apply unless you have to. If you must, stay away from sensitive areas like wells, streams, sinkholes, ag drainage wells. Follow required separation distances for your type of operation.
  5. Be aware of tile intake locations. While it’s not required, DNR recommends avoiding application within 200 feet of areas draining into a surface intake.
  6. Supervise your applicators. Make sure they don’t walk away from running equipment like manure agitators and pumps.
  7. Don’t over apply thinking the soil can hold it because it’s dry. Soil types have limited water-holding capacity. Check for saturated soils and run off.
  8. Check the weather forecast. Don’t land apply right before a storm. Runoff could wash manure and nearby pollutants into a stream.
  9. Carry a spill kit and know how to use it.

Finally, promptly report spills. Call the 24-hour spill number at 515-725-8694. Why? It’s required. But, also, DNR staff have responded to hundreds of spills. If you tell them what’s happening, they may be able to help you avoid a bad situation or keep a bad problem from getting worse.