Dairy water filtration pilot project reduces nitrogen to create cleaner water for irrigation
Austin Allred (L), an owner at Royal Dairy, and Steve George (R), Yakima Dairy Federation, at the farm’s enclosed water filtration box which removes up to 95% of organic nitrogen for crop irrigation
Last spring several dairy farmers, consultants and officials learned how biofiltration and, more specifically, red worms and bacteria convert organic matter from dairy waste water into usable irrigation water, farm flush water and nutrient-rich fertilizer.
Austin Allred – an owner at Royal Dairy near Royal City – learned as much as he could about how the biological wastewater filtration process works. He learned that it could remove up to 95% of total nitrogen from manure effluent in a 4-hour process.
Following his research on the system’s water cleaning capability and economic feasibility, he installed a pilot system at his dairy that uses a 44′ x 50′ x 5′ fully enclosed concrete structure to filter up to 5,000 gallons of wastewater per day. The system uses the BIDA® biological aerobic wastewater filtration process developed and patented by BioFiltro, a wastewater management technologies company based in Chile.
“We installed the ‘worm box’ in September and it is doing the job of cleaning water pretty much as projected,” Allred said. “We’ve had several farmers and others tour the facility to see first-hand how it performs as we prepare to take the system to a higher commercial level of production.”
Wastewater from the farm’s manure storage lagoon is pumped into a filtration system, then to the concrete “worm box” where it is sprayed on top of wood shavings and sawdust (in which the worms live). Gravity pulls the filtered water through additional layers where microbial flora consume dissolved contaminants; then through layers of rock and drainage cells before it outflows as near nitrogen-free irrigation water. The system applies aerobic bacteria and worms to remove up to 99% of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS) and up to 90% of nitrogen.
Farmers invest in research & technology to improve production, water and air quality
Sunnyside native Genny DeRuyter manages financial and regulatory affairs of the family-owned DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in Outlook, which she has owned and operated with her husband Jake for the past 30 years
They are investing to improve farm operations with research, sophisticated farm technology and equipment, and outreach with government agencies and policy makers to ensure that decisions are made with current science-based information, about how modern farm practices are improving production, water and air quality.
Local dairy farmers are making multimillion-dollar investments to improve production efficiency and to meet or often exceed environmental benchmarks for water and air quality. We want do the best job possible in balancing good stewardship with sound business practices.
More farms are expected to utilize GPS on their equipment to inject manure nutrients directly into the ground using computerized flow-metering systems that eliminate odor. Centrifuge and manure separation technology allow us to obtain more solids for composting. About 75 percent of the area’s dairy operations export compost out of the Yakima Valley.
APPROXIMATELY 75 PERCENT OF THE AREA’S DAIRY OPERATIONS EXPORT COMPOST OUT OF THE YAKIMA VALLEY.
We expect on-farm innovations to continue in the coming years. Promising testing is being done locally for bio-filtration using worm beds to clean water, and evolving anaerobic digestion technology for production of electricity, biogas, natural gas and even ethanol are on the horizon.
Area dairy farmers serve on the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Management Advisory Committee (GWMAC), and work with officials at the Yakima Regional Clean Air Agency to show how modern farm practices are improving operations, and to develop a framework for implementation of reasonable guidelines for local groundwater and air quality improvements.
Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency have said Yakima dairies have stepped up to reduce sources of nitrate from farm operations. Washington Department of Agriculture inspectors who visit dairy farms on a frequent basis say the progress dairy farmers are making to upgrade facilities, improve waste storage ponds and upgrade record keeping has been “phenomenal.”
SYCD Manure Management Workshop provides regulatory updates & latest best farm practices
SYCD Manure Management Workshop attracts Valley dairy producers to learn about current regulations and soil health, and protocols to ensure water quality.
Jessica Newhouse, Farm Manager at Newhouse Family Dairy near Mabton, attended her first dairy farm manure nutrient management workshop since graduating from Washington State University in 2014 with a degree in Animal Science. Organized by the South Yakima Conservation District (SYCD), the 4-hour workshop attracted more than 30 Valley dairy farmers and interested others to hear experts describe current regulations and the latest protocols for ensuring groundwater and air quality. “I wasn’t looking forward to it,” Ms. Newhouse said, “but it was really helpful as the presenters were focused on regulatory facts, not speculation; and we learned quite a bit about what goes on under the soil as well as what grows on top of it.”
Presenters described how “sandy, silty” soils found in eastern Washington need the organic material that comes from proper manure applications to help beneficial, healthy bacteria live. The addition of manure nutrients increases soil health and crop yields. “Participants learned about soil health and how ‘no-till’ drills that we rent build soil material, ” said Laurie Crowe, Livestock Nutrient Management Specialist with the SYCD and one of the organizers of the workshop. “Soil is a living thing, made healthy and structured with proper application of manure-based nutrients.”
During the workshop ag-producers heard experts discuss irrigation water scheduling and efficiencies; how to collect and interpret information about soil moisture on crop fields; the nutrient management “four R’s” (right source, right amount, right time, right place); and soil health assessments including water holding capacity, organic matter content and soil moisture.
“Past groundwater contamination lawsuits put one Valley dairy producer out of business and cost others dearly to defend and settle,” said Steve George, who represents the Yakima Dairy Federation. “Ag producers want to do the right things and this type of workshop proves it. It provided a mechanism for them to understand current rules and regulations and tools and methods available to accurately and legally apply crop nutrients to fields. It also brought farmers together with plenty of time for their questions and discussion about the latest regulations, how to assess your soil health, manure management best practices and irrigation techniques. “
Dairyland News is distributed to dairy farm families, business leaders/dairy farm suppliers, government staff, elected officials, and news media to show how dairy farmers contribute to the community, with safe operations, best farm management practices and effective stewardship of land and animals. Dairyland News is produced by the Washington Dairy Products Commission in cooperation with the Washington State Dairy Federation.
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