Local producer, DNR seek solutions to runoff problem

Sunday, April 1, 2007

By Steve Moyer

Herald-Tribune

Nevada, Mo. -- The water ripples over stones in the creek bed, revealing a cloudy appearance to the water. An odor wafts from the creek crossing under the bridge on 3000 road. It is apparent to George Parsons, environmental specialist for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, what the problem is.

"This is runoff from a field," Parsons said. "It looks like a recent rain washed it down."

The creek runs through land owned by Focal Dairy and their use of sludge from a sewage lagoon to fertilize fields is causing complaints from neighbors.

"We've had lots of complaints on this," Parsons said. "There were incidents in January and March. We were here several times in between working with them to curb the problem."

Parsons said the problem wasn't with the lagoon itself, it apparently had to do with the way the dairy was using sludge.

"The lagoon is over there," Parsons said, pointing southwest. "It would drain the other way, so this is from land application."

Kevin Vanderpoel, Focal Dairy, said the problem stemmed from pumps used at the lagoon last year which had to be replaced.

"We're aware of the problem and we want to do the right thing," Vanderpoel said. "We normally wouldn't spread this time of year. Unfortunately we had some pumps supplied to us that weren't adequate for our use. There was a situation last year when we had to replace them, the lagoon level was above what we would have liked, and we got into winter before it was taken care of and we couldn't spread then."

Vanderpoel said the dairy has been trying to correct problems and get the situation under control.

"We're looking at putting in secondary confinements and getting more training from DNR," Vanderpoel said. "We're also looking at alternatives to spreading, perhaps injecting directly into the ground. We want to develop a good plan to overcome these problems."

Parsons said the concept behind the dairy is good but the owners needed to work on abating the runoff problems.

"This kind of dairy is a good idea but it needs to be implemented right," Parsons said.

Vanderpoel summed it up with a phrase farmers have used for millennia. "It's just been one of those years."

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