Livestock and Manure Management: Ranch and Farm Liners

Confined animal feeding operations require a comprehensive manure management plan—and due to EPA regulations, those plans are often legally required by law. Here’s how to come up with a legally sound manure management plan and how to take the steps necessary to meet it.

The Clean Water Act (And What It Means for CAFOs)

There are only so many uses for the massive quantities of manure that are produced daily by confined animal feeding operations (or CAFOs). Though some of the manure is used for crop fertilization, a vast majority of it is decomposed via composts and lagoons. The problem is, both options could result in water contamination if not managed properly. In fact, the EPA estimates that before regulations were put into place, 2 billion pounds of animal-specific waste sediment made their way into US lakes, rivers, and streams annually including antibiotics and other veterinary drugs from CAFO runoff that may impact human health. To prevent this from happening, the EPA issued the Clean Water Act with the intention of protecting human health and the environment by governing water pollution - manure included. The act specifically calls out CAFOs as a primary source of waste and requires an NPDES permit for any that may use US waterways as part of their waste management strategy.

How to Create a Manure Management Plan

For those feeding operations that do not have an NPDES permit, an alternative method of manure management needs to be installed. Specifically, one that will not allow waste to enter waterways.   The absolute best way to manage manure is to reuse it for crop fertilization. Under the EPA’s regulations feedlots that do this must have a “nutrient management plan” detailing how manure will be spread over the land without spilling into waterways and at what time of year manure will be spread. Since it is more beneficial for manure to be spread out over certain lands at certain periods of time and there is far more waste than can be spread out over several acres, waste storage is a crucial aspect of any nutrient management plan.

The Importance of Manure Storage Structures

Manure storage structures are defined by regulation as “any pad, pit, pond, lagoon, tank, building, or manure containment area used to store or treat manure, including any portions of buildings used specifically for manure storage or treatment.” To ensure that these storage structures are watertight and will contain manure without exposing it to US waterways, many contained animal feeding operations rely on agricultural liners to provide dependable containment with low permeability, long life expectancy, and easy maintenance. BTL -40, is a 40 mil reinforced polyethylene ideal for containing an animal waste lagoon and can be used to line treatment lagoons and holding ponds. These lagoons break down odors and solids while an emergency spillway directs overflow to a second storage structure also lined with lagoon liners in the case of heavy rain.

How to Avoid Spills and Leaks

Unfortunately, many commercial grade lagoon liners don’t hold up to EPA standards. Lagoon leaks and spills happen all over the country resulting in millions of gallons of waste entering U.S. waterways annually. In 1995, one spill in North Carolina released more than 20 million gallons of waste into the New River, killing fish by the thousands and exposing nearby states to outbreaks of pfiesteria. Thanks to geomembrane technology, BTL lagoon liners are more puncture- and tear-resistant than PVC and EPDM versions. Our warranties protect you from weathering and environmental degradation for up to 25 years.

Using Manure Storage to Fertilize Fields

The goal of any manure storage plan is to eventually use the decomposed solids to fertilize fields for crop growth. The nutrition management plan should dictate which fields would benefit from manure fertilization as well as the exact quantities of nutrients to be derived from it. Some fields are restricted from being fertilized such as those predisposed to water run-off or those too close to wells, sinkholes, lakes, and streams. Careful waste management and control is important to promoting healthy waterways while maintaining manageable levels of manure. If you are part of a contained animal feedlot and are looking for ways to reduce manure contact us for more information. We’d be happy to help you spec out your waste management needs.

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