North Carolina has been extremely wet, and many pork producers were facing potential lagoon problems. Fortunately for producers in eastern North Carolina, rainfall ended by Saturday, March 22. Only a few were forced to take drastic steps due to a lagoon reaching a dangerously high level.
Saturated fields were too wet to spray treated effluent because of continued rainfall on top of what has been a wet fall and winter season in the area. Producers are hoping to be able to spray this week and thereby reduce lagoon levels.
The approved “crop-application windows” for spraying on corn and Coastal Bermuda grass lands are now open. During the winter, North Carolina regulations permit spraying lagoon contents only on a winter small-grain crop or on fescue.
According to the state environmental department’s water-quality division, about 300 pork operation manure treatment lagoons reached the “high-freeboard” stage last week. Contents had risen so that 19 inches or less of the dike remained above the water line. That is considered a dangerous situation.
When a lagoon level reaches within 12 inches of the dike top– into the “structural-freeboard” area– the state regulations give the producer three choices to reduce the water level: (1) Spray on a sufficiently dry field that has a state-certified crop, and include the procedure to the farm’s waste-management plan.
(2) Pump and haul to another lagoon or to a farm with an appropriate sprayfield that has a state-certified crop.
(3) Depopulate the site by removing animals from the facility.
Only a few eastern North Carolina producers reportedly have had to use the No. 3 provision.
There are about 4,000 lagoons on pork operations within the state that are part of the state-certified, waste-management plans.