Seepage From Anaerobic Lagoons Degrads Water Quality

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In the 1990’s North America, Europe and Asia have seen a great expansion in the hog industry. In North Carolina alone, the industry quadrupled in this decade. Other regions of the United States, particularly the Midwest, have seen similar growth. As the industry has grown, large scale production, or hog confinement operations, has dominated the industry. The primary method of waste handling for confinement operations is anaerobic lagoons (Midwest Plan Service, 1987). In this method, animal waste is washed from the confinements or housing units to a lagoon and diluted with fresh water. Lagoons allow for solids, from the manure, to settle to the bottom of the lagoon and the ammonium to volatilize. The animal waste to dilution water ratio in a lagoon is typically 1:10.

Anaerobic lagoons, although generally safe, do present potential water quality problems. First, confinement facilities typically fail to have the land area required to properly apply large amounts of waste generated. Proper application usually depends on recommended rates, these ratesare based on the nutritive value (nitrogen or phosphorus content) of the waste material. The prevailing notion is to apply a specific mass of a particular nutrient to given surface area of the field, but only that amount that crops will utilize. Generally, application rates consider nutrient volatilization, nutrient availability, method of application of the waste material, as well as cropping system utilized.

Another water quality problem that has emerged from anaerobic lagoons is seepage. Seepage from lagoons to surrounding groundwater or surface water resources can pose a threat to human health, as well as toxicity to aquatic life. Excessive nitrogen in drinking water is belie...

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