Dairymen Deal With Waste Management
The EPA is cracking down on dairymen who violate environmental regulations
and the penalty can range from a stiff fine or jail time. Short courses are
being held throughout the state to help dairymen cope with excess water left
behind by El Niño storms and to help prevent violations.
The University of California Cooperative Extension in cooperation with the
California Farm Bureau, Milk Producers Council, and Western United Dairymen
hosted an Environmental Stewardship Short Course for dairymen in Fresno and
Madera Counties recently. The course was just one of many that will be held
throughout the state in the near future. Deanne Meyer and Jerry Higginbotham of
the UCCE taught the course held at Caruthers High School. Dairymen filled the
room to listen to strategies for implementing environmental-friendly waste
The objective of the educational program is to increase the awareness of
dairy operators and associated individuals to the potential impacts of manure
management practices on ground and surface water resources. Meyer and
Higginbotham say that a successful program will improve the awareness and
knowledge of dairy operators to accomplish manure management while achieving
The short course reviewed pertinent laws related to manure management along
with water quality; calculated storage needs for dairy waste and discussed
Three classes will be held to complete the desired outcome, and homework was
assigned for the next class meeting. The second class will focus on developing a
farm pollution prevention plan. The third and last class will focus on
evaluating nutrients in manure.
A focal point of this program is to inform dairymen of the importance of
complying with the Clean Water Act. If the dairyman does not comply with the
Clean Water Act, the EPA may file an administrative or court action to obtain
civil penalties from the illegal discharge of wastewater. Violations of the
Clean Water Act can also result in a criminal prosecution under certain
circumstances. For negligent violations, criminal fines range from $2,500 to
$25,000 per day of violation or the discharger could receive a prison term of
If a dairyman knowingly violates the Clean Water Act, criminal fines range
from $5,000 to $50,000 per day of violation and/or a prison term of three years.
Specific concerns related to lagoons or ponds are that they are sealed and do
not leak. Problems with ponds in other states have led to an increased focus in
California on structural maintenance of sidewalls and bottoms.
Pond water and the nutrients contained in the water that leach into the soil
is what the EPA is most concerned with. The leaching of nitrate-nitrogen is a
main concern. If the wastewater was to leach through the soil and into the
groundwater, all who drink water from that area of concentration would be at
Drinking water should not contain nitrate-nitrogen amounts higher than 10
milligrams per liter that is the federal and state drinking water level.
Infants, adults, and young livestock are susceptible to health risks if exposed
to high levels of nitrate containing water.
Preventing the problem of ground and surface water contamination can be
difficult. What may prove to be a good practice for runoff prevention can lead
to standing water leaching through to the groundwater. An example of this could
be a manure pile strategically placed in a low spot, if water were to accumulate
at the site then the nutrients could seep through to the groundwater.
Meyer, who is a Livestock Waste Management Specialist with the University of
California, Davis, says that manure management starts with the feed, by choosing
rations that contain low levels of potential contaminants, such as an over
abundance of certain minerals that may leave residues in the manure and
infiltrate into the soil.
Meyer stressed that better manure management will reduce the risk of
groundwater contamination which will lead to the pollution of drinking water.
"Wastewater is often over-applied to fields as fertilizer," said
Meyer. "This can lead to high amounts of nitrate found in the soil and
water table. You need to monitor the amount of wastewater applied to ensure that
you will not be contributing to groundwater contamination."
Central Valley Farmer, Vol. 5, No. 6, April 16,
Wastewater Site Map
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