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July 12, 2021 Issues & Insights

Manure releases on confined feeding operations: response and prevention

With the historic heat wave hovering over Alberta in past weeks many of us have been longing for rain to cool things off and revive crops. But heavy rains can increase the risk of a manure release. A release of manure from a confined feeding operation (CFO) is a serious issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Do you know what to do if a release occurs on your property?

CFO and seasonal feeding and bedding site owners and operators are required to report all manure releases to the NRCB’s 24-hour reporting line (1-866-383-6722). The risk to the environment associated with a release incident will dictate next steps. Manure (including catch basin contents) releases include spills, overflows, or manure runoff from spreading fields. Though uncommon, manure releases may occur into water bodies as well as onto adjacent property.

The Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) has released a Manure Release Response Policy describing the process used by NRCB inspectors to ensure manure releases from CFOs are dealt with in a consistent, effective, and transparent manner.  This process has been used for years by NRCB inspectors as an internal protocol.

CFO owners and operators should monitor liquid levels in their manure collection and storage facilities, as well as maintain a freeboard of not less than 0.5 metres to help prevent releases from occurring. Releases can also occur during liquid manure application due to equipment failures, for example if a drag hose breaks. The NRCB also encourages CFO owners and operators to be proactive and develop a plan for potential manure releases from all manure storage facilities. This includes having an accessible Emergency Manure Spill Action Plan and having an emergency spill kit available. Additional information on manure spill prevention and response, including an Emergency Manure Spill Action Plan template, is available at https://www.alberta.ca/manure-spill-prevention-and-response.aspx.

For more information on this policy or on what to do if a manure release occurs, please contact an NRCB inspector at the NRCB field office nearest you.

Photo: Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association

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About the Author

Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB)

The NRCB is responsible for reviews of proposed major natural resource projects under the Natural Resources Conservation Board Act (NRCBA), and for the regulation of confined feeding operations (CFOs) in Alberta under the Agricultural Operation Practices Act (AOPA).

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