Skip to main content

Dealing With Emergency Manure Runoff

Updated November 18, 2021
David Kringen

David Kringen

SDSU Extension Water Resources Field Specialist

Written collaboratively by Tracey Erickson, former SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist and David Kringen, SDSU Extension Water Resources Field Specialist.

With the recent flooding that the region has experienced and snowmelt that is yet to come, it is essential for livestock operators with animal waste management systems (AWMS) to regularly check on structures in order to prevent a manure storage spill. A holding pond is usually a part of an animal waste management system. According to the S.D. Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Holding Pond Water Management factsheet, most holding ponds are clay lined earthen structures that store liquid manure and runoff from components of an animal feeding operation, such as open feedlot areas, manure stacking pads, feed storage areas, and other areas that generate processed wastewater. While holding ponds will lose water due to evaporation, ponds need to be checked after storm events to see if they should be emptied. During periods of wet climatic weather, ponds may need to be emptied more than once during the year.

    Holding Pond Water Levels

    manure holding pond diagram. contact David Kringen at 605-995-7378  for a complete description. Image courtesy of USDA NRCS
    Graphic courtesy of South Dakota Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    According to the SD General Water Pollution Control Permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, there should be adequate storage capacity to contain all manure, bedding, washwater, and process wastewater (runoff) for a minimum of 365 days, plus the volume of a 25-year, 24-hour storm event (approximately 3 inches in western SD and 5 inches in eastern SD) and two feet of freeboard (extra storage to prevent a discharge). The maximum water level of the holding pond that should be allowed before pumping begins will be indicated by a permanent marker. When the water level is above the marker, the pond should be pumped down below the marker within 14 days. It is generally a good idea to go into the winter months well below the permanent marker. Unfortunately, last fall may have made it challenging to accomplish this task for some producers.

    These marginal conditions will require you to be on top of your management game to oversee the risk associated with runoff. If you are needing to lower your holding pond water level, you need to work with your planner to revise your emergency spreading plan and determine field(s) with a low risk of runoff and high accessibility.

    Emergency Management Options

    What options might you consider in regard to winter and wet weather manure spreading in an emergency situation?

    • Is there an opportunity to transfer to a satellite storage or a neighboring facility that is not affected?
    • Apply on fields with a low risk of runoff occurring after a review of the Water Quality Risk Assessment maps found in your NRCS or DENR-approved nutrient management plan.
    • Fields that have crop residue such as corn stalks, cover crops, or hay crop residue are lower risk than fields that have been already tilled or only have corn silage stubble.
    • If possible, try to inject or incorporate manure with soil residue where practical.
    • Consider temporary barriers such as a small earthen dike or hay/straw bales at high risk points to prevent concentrated runoff.
    • If applying on frozen soil, try to stay on slopes of <4%.
    • Do not apply on floodplains.
    • Maximize set-back distances from streams, watershed areas or fields with surface inlet areas (or avoid these areas all together). A minimum of 300’ setback is recommended for most conveyances or 1,000’ from any major waterbodies.
    • It is important to take both manure/effluent samples and soil samples, then calculate a rate to make sure overapplication does not occur.
    • Monitor soil conditions continuously to make sure soils do not become saturated and runoff begins to occur.
    • If applying to thawed soils, the tops of slopes are typically lower risk than the bottom areas.
    • Avoid application in fields where water runoff typically occurs.
    • If you must apply manure or holding pond water, work with the appropriate regulating agency to activate your emergency response application plan.

    Operators with AWMS should also have an emergency response plan in place in case of a storage facility spill, leak, or failure. Plans should contain phone numbers for first responders such as the county sheriff and fire department, your local zoning officer, as well your engineer or AWMS system designer, the South Dakota Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Ag Nutrient Management Team and the State of SD Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

    Reporting Discharges

    If you are a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation that is a permitted facility in the State of South Dakota, you have Twenty-four Hour Reporting. The producer shall report any discharge as soon as possible, but no later than twenty-four (24) hours from the time the producer first became aware of the discharge. The report shall be made to the State of South Dakota at 605-773-3351. If after normal business hours (8:00 am to 5:00 p.m. central time on Monday through Friday), the producer shall report the discharge by calling 605-773-3231. The producer shall also take immediate steps to stop the discharge and notify anyone downstream that may be impacted by the discharge.

    If you are a non-permitted facility with an animal waste holding facility with a significant concern, it is suggested that you should start by contacting your engineer and/or nutrient management planner. If you have worked with NRCS on a design or your engineer and nutrient planner are not available, then contact the NRCS Ag Nutrient Management Team based out of Mitchell at 605-996-1564, Ext. 5.