A manure spill, no matter where it occurs, is more than an ‘oops’. There are serious consequences if manure spills are not handled promptly and properly.
Manure spills related to manure hauling and spreading can occur due to operator error, equipment failure or an accident. No matter what the circumstances, it’s imperative that the operator knows what to do, and is prepared to take immediate and appropriate action.
Every farm that has a manure management plan should also have a plan for dealing with spills. The plan should include clear instructions that all farm employees can understand and implement. Review the plan at least twice a year, and make sure that the plan is included in new employee training. Manure handlers/operators should be familiar with the farm’s nutrient management plan, and know the location of surface water and runoff areas. Employees who don’t handle manure should also be aware of the manure management and spill plan in case they are needed to help manage a spill.
Because no two spills are alike, it’s important to develop a plan that will fit all circumstances. You may not need to employ all measures of that plan for a particular spill, but having a list of procedures will eliminate confusion for all involved.
The plan should include contact information for emergency services, the farm owner, farm manager, neighbors whose property might be affected, backhoe and/or pumper truck operator, authorities such as the soil and water conservation district, any other reporting agencies and emergency personnel. This list of contacts should be kept in in every tractor and truck cab, and updated as necessary.
Another essential for both the farm office and tractor or truck cabs is current aerial maps of the farm fields where manure is applied. Maps should include roadways, farm lanes, farm fields and bodies of water. This will help the operator quickly identify the site so that information can be relayed to responders.
State, county and local regulations regarding spills vary, so be aware of the rules for your area. Regulatory agencies can provide information regarding immediate and follow-up reporting.
The top priority for any spill response should be human safety. If there are human injuries, the first step is to contact emergency personnel, then keep any injured people safe until help arrives. If the spill is a result of a traffic accident on the road with no human injury, contact emergency personnel and ensure that the area is secured. Be mindful that manure on roadways can present a hazard to both workers on the ground and to motorists.
After the proper authorities have been notified, inspect the site and begin steps for the clean up procedure. Eliminate the source of the spill and if possible, take steps to prevent more manure from leaving the tank. If possible, contain the spill, or direct the spill by creating a diversion that dumps manure into a holding area.
Be aware of any nearby surface water and ensure that spilled manure does not enter that water. Always assume that manure can potentially continue to flow and take steps to contain and/or redirect the flow. Request assistance from farm employees and authorities as necessary. Contact a pumper truck to recover manure that has been contained or diverted to a holding area.
Once the spill is under control, contact the appropriate regulatory agencies within the required time span; usually 24 hours.
Be sure that the farm has a spokesperson to handle questions in case the local press happens to catch wind of a spill. Emphasize the fact that the farm has a plan in place for spills, that employees are trained to deal with spills, and that the appropriate steps are being taken to protect water. It’s also a good idea to have a written environmental policy for the farm, including the type of farm and livestock, products produced and a brief description of environmental measures that are in place on the farm.
Although some spills can’t be prevented, many are the result of faulty equipment. Keep equipment in good operating condiction, and check hoses, pumps, pipes and connections for leaks or signs of wear. Provide updated, accurate and clear instruction for all employees who will handle manure from the storage area to the field. Update the contact list and maintain training for all employees.