From The Daily Standard's Nancy Allen:
Ag officials hope results from manure settling tank tests prove it's economically feasible to transport liquid hog waste out of the Grand Lake Watershed.
Three, 250-gallon tanks containing liquid hog manure were set up a few weeks ago at the Ted Heitkamp farm north of Maria Stein. Terry Mescher, an agricultural engineer with the state, is conducting the experiment and hopes to repeat it at two other farms, after the bugs are worked out.
"What we're trying to establish is can we develop a sludge on the bottom that will be more economical to export out of the watershed," Mescher said.
The Canadian designed process allows nutrient-rich solids in manure to sink to the bottom, with the liquid staying on top. A $4,500 state grant is being used to run the tests.
Hog manure, which is 95 percent water, is messy and costly to transport due to weight. If officials can reduce the water and increase the nutrient concentration of the solids, then it becomes economically feasible, Mescher said.
"Ultimately … it would be about trying to provide a cheaper alternative to commercial fertilizer," Mescher said. "As the price of commercial fertilizer goes up, the economics of hauling and exporting manure becomes more and more inviting."
Phosphorous, a main nutrient in manure, is useful as fertilizer but damages water quality when it gets in waterways. Grand Lake has been suffering from toxic, blue-green algae blooms, which are fed by phosphorous, for several years. Most of the phosphorous runs off farmland, the main land use in the 58,000-acre watershed.