Consider dirty-water containment ponds, manure stacking areas during flood preparation
Heightened flood potential this spring increases risk of containment ponds breaches. Inspecting the dirty-water containment ponds and manure stacking areas daily is an important practice for livestock owners.
“Ranchers must maintain two feet of freeboard, or reserved storage space, to accommodate a 24-hour, 25-year storm event in their ponds,” advises Mary Keena, North Dakota State University Extension livestock environmental management specialist based at the Carrington Research Extension Center.
“If your manure management runoff containment pond looks like it is going to overtop, is showing signs of major bank erosion, or is being encroached upon by floodwaters, call the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, Division of Water Quality and report these issues before they happen,” says Rachel Strommen, environmental scientist at the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality.
Strommen advises that producers who must pump their ponds back to two feet of freeboard should apply the containment water to cropland or pastureland as soon as the ground thaws.
“While the nutrient content of the containment water is minimal, it is important to have it sampled and record the number of gallons applied to fields so your nutrient management plan can be updated to include the pumping,” Keena says.
If a containment pond has an unpermitted release, ranchers must call the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality (NDDEQ) at 701-328-5210 to report the incident. Ranchers will be required to keep records of all weather events that caused the release, the date, time and location of the release, the volume of manure or runoff released, and the actions taken to clean up and minimize the release.
Another thing to monitor is manure stacking areas. Livestock owners should inspect areas where they are stockpiling manure, whether that’s the edge of the field or a designated stacking area that may be prone to overland flooding because of this year’s weather events, Keena says.
Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are highly susceptible to dissolving in water or moving with the soil, causing pollution in runoff waters. If a manure stacking area becomes inundated with water and runoff, producers likely will need to build a berm around the area to prevent nutrient-dense runoff issues.