There are no simple solutions to a manure spill, but thinking through your specific situation and monitoring daily can help prevent, or at least minimize, the environmental risks and potential regulatory issues. Every day, farmers must account for a variety of factors when loading and hauling manure or spreading it in the fields. These factors include weather, soil saturation, manure coverage, cover crops, soil types, slope and direction, and depth of cultivation. However, farmers cannot account for events they can’t control – the blown hose, the punctured tire, the cracked irrigation pipe or any other possible accidents or failures. While these incidents may be common enough and even expected – they can only be planned for and not prevented entirely. One such accident is the manure spill. In the case of a manure spill, Michigan State University Extension recommends that all livestock producers have a manure spill kit handy and more importantly have an emergency response plan in place.
Putting together a manure spill kit is not difficult. Just collect the necessary tools and supplies and have them ready to use in the case of a spill.
Dr. Kris Kohl, agricultural engineer with Iowa State University Extension, suggests farmers assemble the following items into a trailer or pickup-sized spill kit.
- Copy of complete Emergency Response Plan (including site maps and emergency numbers)
- 25 square hay or straw bales (Use to block a culvert or to build a berm or diversion.)
- 10 T-Posts (Use to support plywood or bale stacks.)
- 14-inch-diameter PVC pipe, four 3-foot sections and two 4-foot sections (Use to cover tile inlets.)
- Several 6-mil plastic sheets, approximately 12-foot by 25-foot (Use with duct tape to cover tile inlets or other sensitive areas.)
- 4 bags of bentonite chips (Use to plug small gaps when creating a berm or diversion.)
- 1 sheet 4-foot by 4-foot plywood (Use to block culverts. Round the plywood on one end to fit the curve of the ditch.)
- Pliers, 1 each of vice grips, fencing pliers, channel lock pliers, standard pliers
- Hammers, one 12-ounce hammer and one 3-pound hammer
- 1 utility knife
- 1 hand saw
- 1 hachet
- 1 post driver
- 1 roll of duct tape
- Bailing wire
- Sand shovels
Along with the emergency response plan, this manure spill kit should be readily available to use in case of a manure spill. Timing is essential in getting any spill under control and contained. On a slope of less than 2 percent, liquid manure will flow as fast as 5 feet per second.
Sometimes the trailer- or truck-mounted spill kit may not always be available or even an option for every farm situation. Michigan State University Extension recommends the use of a small-scale spill kit to help ensure some level of preparedness for most situations. You can store this spill kit in a tractor or pickup cab. It includes a roll of duct tape, 12-foot by 25-foot 6-mil plastic sheets, a utility knife and a shovel. This spill kit is ideal for controlling or containing a small spill before it turns into a large one.
Shelby Bollwahn is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator. Contact her at email@example.com.