Northwest Iowa dairy farm leaked manure for days

By: - March 16, 2022 2:30 pm

(Photo by Scott Bauer/Agricultural Research Service, USDA)

Workers at a Sioux County dairy farm noticed that manure water was overflowing from a barn and into a storm drain on Friday but did nothing to prevent the leak because they were unaware it would flow into a nearby creek, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

An undetermined amount of manure escaped from Black Soil Dairy — which has about 4,500 dairy cows about three miles south of Granville — before the dairy owner noticed and stopped the leak Monday morning.

The dairy farm has a flush flume system to clean manure from its three barns. It works by cascading a shallow stream of fast-moving water to wash manure from barn floors. Part of the system in one of the barns became clogged by sand that is used for bedding last week and caused the overflow.

There was no easy way to quantify the amount of manure that had leaked because it didn’t spill from a storage container with a known capacity, said Jennifer Christian, a senior environmental specialist for the DNR.

“It was a significant spill, which caused a fish kill,” Christian said.

On Tuesday, DNR investigators noticed the manure had gone five miles downstream of the dairy farm in Deep Creek, which is populated by small fish such as chubs and minnows. The full extent of the environmental impact of the leak was unclear because ice covered parts of the creek, Christian said.

It’s possible the dairy farm’s owner, Nate Zuiderveen, will attempt to pump contaminated water from the creek, Christian said.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.

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