We’ve all seen the results of manure spills – reeking brown water, fish kills, and floating clouds of toxic blue-green algae. Cleaning up these manure spills can take decades and costs a small fortune. What’s more, homeowners and residents near the site of the manure spill find themselves in the middle of what might as well be a toxic waste dump. The manure and resulting algae pose a risk to public health, and can threaten drinking water supplies.
Rather than just cleaning up after manure spills, we should actively seek ways to prevent them before they contaminate water and sicken local residents. Right now, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the State Chemist are working on rules that will regulate the storage, distribution, and use of manure. These rules, if properly constructed, will prevent future spills from occurring.
There are many ways to stop untreated manure from seeping into Indiana’s water resources. For example, riparian zones (heavily vegetated borders between fields and water bodies) can stop small manure spills and naturally absorb agricultural runoff. Setbacks from water bodies and flood plains can prevent flooding – a very common problem in Indiana – which sweeps manure out of manure pits and into our waterways.
HEC will fight for proper manure management and stronger setbacks, not just from water resources but also from schools and homes. Proper management of manure should incorporate best management practices that are known to reduce the spread of disease and includes nutrient limits to prevent outbreaks of algal blooms. Setbacks should be stringent enough and to ensure that rural residents are not at risk from noxious odors and harmful gases emitted by manure lagoons and land-applied manure, and to prevent runoff into rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.
In order to protect ourselves – and stop manure spills from occurring – we need you to add your voice to our comments. Versions of these rules will be released later this month, and we will testify for the strongest possible regulations to keep manure where it belongs. Email Falon French at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to sign on to our comments to help give them weight as we fight for cleaner air, safer water, and a healthier countryside.