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Success Stories - Dairy Waste Storage

California Conservation Showcase

March 2009

Dairy Waste Storage: Engineer Helps Dairy Find Affordable Waste Storage Solution

"There was a lot of hard work on Ken’s part, and he deserves a lot of credit for making this work." - Bruce Gordon, District Conservationist

The dairy owner applied for EQIP cost-sharing to construct a manure storage facility to meet his needs.
Erecting the Forms: When a Ferndale dairy needed a longer waste storage period to fully utilize organic nutrients while protecting water quality, the owner applied for EQIP cost-sharing to construct a manure storage facility to meet that need.

The Radelfinge-Nelson Dairy owned by Denver Nelson, milks approximately 200 Jersey cows on 201 acres of perennial grass-clover pasture at their main facility near Ferndale, California. Nelson has expanded and improved the facilities significantly since acquiring the property and recently converted to certified organic production.

In 2006 Nelson was interested in continuing improvements to the dairy including roof runoff, irrigation, nutrient management and an enhanced waste storage facility. He requested assistance from NRCS and received funding through the 2006 Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at the Eureka, California NRCS office. Soil Conservationist Mark Meissner helped Nelson to develop a comprehensive conservation plan.

Improved waste storage was a priority. The dairy had two ponds and an in-ground pit that provided less than 80 days of liquid waste storage. But the rainy season in Humboldt County typically lasts more than 120 days. To prevent the ponds from overflowing uncontrollably during winter storms, liquid waste had to be pumped and applied to the land at every opportunity. This was usually at a time in the growing cycle when the pasture plants are not capable of fully using the nutrients and when imminent rain threatens to remove the nutrients through deep percolation and surface runoff and possibly contaminate surface waters.

Ken Householder, Ag Engineer at the Eureka Service Center, worked out a design that would meet the dairy’s waste storage needs. Householder said that getting this practice implemented was definitely the first hurdle.

The new tank will increase the storage period to 120 days.
Finished Tank Ready for Plumbing: An innovative solution was found through the tenacity and toil of an engineer from the Eureka office, and the project was completed for under $131,000. The new tank will increase the storage period to 120 days.

Changes to State waste storage regulations in the Central Valley led NRCS to make a statewide change to the practice standard for waste storage facilities. The result was that the new Nelson facility would have to be above ground due to the shallow water table in the area. "It would be very difficult if not impossible to use what had been used before," said Householder.

"The change in standard caused delay," said District Conservationist Bruce Gordon. "The contract was written under the old standard. It would be much more expensive under the new standard, and early rough estimates indicated that it might cost as much as $700,000."

Householder looked at large above ground facilities built in Tillamook, Oregon, using new ASCE design standards. He worked with the designer of those tanks and the engineering staff in Davis using these "state of the art" design standards to come up with a workable solution.

Although innovative, the Tillamook tanks have big footprints. One, holding 15.3 million gallons, is known as the largest above ground manure storage tank in North America. Householder designed the Nelson tank to fit local conditions and the dairy’s needs. "This tank is different because it had to be designed for the extreme seismic loads of our region," Householder said. "The structure was built with big earthquakes in mind."

"Ken was able to refine the design," said Gordon. "He reduced the diameter and increased the height, using thinner walls and high grade concrete. By reducing the amount of steel and concrete needed, he saved a lot of money. There was a lot of hard work on Ken’s part, and he deserves a lot of credit for making this work."

-NRCS-

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