1M gallon manure spill fouls SE Minn. streams

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, April 17, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS — The cold spring is aggravating problems with manure spills and runoff around Minnesota.

About 1 million gallons of manure spilled from a southeastern Minnesota dairy farm late Sunday night, fouling two trout streams before making its way into the Root River. It happened when a concrete wall of the 495-head operation’s manure pit fractured. That sent water and manure 700 feet into a ditch, across a road and into two creeks that feed into the Root River, said Cathy Rofshus, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Cleanup crews went to the site Monday to shore up the wall to prevent more leakage and to pump the rest of the manure onto nearby fields, she said.

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It’s the latest incident amid a growing problem in Minnesota’s farming counties.

The cold, snowy weather means storage pits are overflowing with a winter’s worth of manure. Farmers have little choice other than to spread it on frozen fields. But instead of staying on the soil, where it would become fertilizer, it’s running off the frozen ground with the rain and melting snow.

“It’s got to be one of the worst seasons I’ve seen,” said Mike Frauenkron, feedlot officer for Fillmore County, where the spill occurred.

It’s not clear whether the spill was a direct result of the unusual spring weather, but he described it as a major one.