Manure can act as a good fertilizer for harvested fields but it also can cause major problems for fish and wildlife when it runs into streams and creeks. About 3:00p.m. Wednesday October 7th, a hog producer reported a spill at the Ring Valley hog confinement a few miles north of Oskaloosa in Mahaska County.
3,000 gallons of hog manure spilled into a small tributary of the South Skunk River when a manure tank loading system valve did not close properly.
Kevin Baskins with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says a spill can greatly harm fish and other aquatic life if the river is not damned up quickly.
“Once you get elevated ammonia levels into a water system it can kill aquatic life relatively quickly and thoroughly. It is not uncommon when we have a spill to see five, ten, fifteen miles of stream that are a total kill of aquatic life because once those levels get into a stream it really can have a devastating impact,” Baskins said.
Baskins adds farmers need to be careful when handling manure because it can cost a lot of money if fish die from high ammonia levels.
“When we do have a fish kill, we will do a fish assessment using national standards to count those fish. Then if we find a responsible party for causing a fish kill, we will seek restitution and we have seen those dollar amounts creep up into the six figures,” Baskins said.
He reminds farmers to slow down and make sure all equipment is in working order so spills do not occur. Baskins says also have a plan in case something bad does happen.