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E-M:/ THE SOLUTION: re: cafos, Gerald Henning, MDA, etc.

Enviro-Mich message from Lowell Prag <lprag@mail.msen.com>

Some very basic questions need to be answered before one can arrive 
at a solution for the manure created by all of the Michigan cafos.

Given the fact that Americans want cheap meat, cafos are not going
to disappear. Also, most people will not spend money to correct
environmental problems unless forced to and that also presupposes that
they will then have the money to solve the problem correctly once they
agree to comply, rather than attempt to solve the problem cheaply with
a non-sustainable solution.

The question is:

do the cafos, MDA, and the general public know 
how to solve the manure problem correctly?

Lagoons are certainly not the correct long term solution, even if
built out of concrete and can guarantee no leakage, because lagoons
do not compost and stabilize the manure, hence the smell, and it must
be spread in a sludge state a while before crops are planted, in order
not to burn the crops, and there is still then the very real possibility
of runoff, etc.

The only long term, sustainable solution is to compost the manure,
in order to stabilize it before spreading it on the soil, and if
done correctly, the composting process does not generate the odors
associated with sludge.

Composting allows the resultant compost to be safely used as a soil
amendment to fertilize at any time, as stable compost will not burn
crops, does not smell, and also most importantly, builds the health of
the soil by nurturing the micro life within the soil.

Thus, agreement must be reached to compost the manure as part of the
solution for cafo compliance, and one is then faced with an economic
decision regarding what type of composting method to use.

The cheapest method is windrow composting where the manure is
deposited in long rows and turned frequently with a tractor in order
to incorporate air and speed the composting, as the bacteria need
air in this type of composting (aerobic).

The main problem with this method is that depending upon where the
windrows are placed, one can still have run off and deep group seepage
during the composting process before the manure is stabilized as

Again, based on economics, one could pour a concrete pad upon which to
place the manure in windrows and if done with perimeter retaining
walls, this could certainly guarantee no run off or ground seepage
during the composting process.

This would though, necessitate some type of drainage from the concrete
pad into concrete holding tanks for the rainwater and snow melt, as
this type of composting will not occur under very wet conditions and
again, such tanks would necessitate draining and one would still have
the run off problem.

In short, windrow composting is best suited to places where there
is no immediate problem of run off into streams, etc. during the
composting process and the soil structure is such, that ground water
contamination is not a problem during the composting process.

Given these problems with aerobic windrow composting when dealing with
huge amounts of manure, the best solution to the cafo manure problem
is closed vessel digestors which produce both compost and methane but
it is also the most expensive solution and therein lies the rub: 

since politics support cafos (cheap meat, etc.), 
can an expensive solution be mandated?

Closed vessel digestors are huge, air tight containers which use
another type of bacteria which can function without air (anaerobic),
to perform the composting and in the process, the bacteria also
produce methane which can be used as fuel to generate on site
electricity, heat farms buildings, run tractors, etc.

This type of anaerobic technology is widely used in Europe where the
pollution laws are stricter. What remains to be seen is whether those
affected by cafos can muster the political muscle to mandate it in

One viable approach would be a government agency similar to the
Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) which through the
sale of bonds, has a revolving fund to finance the construction of very
low interest rate housing with no cost to the tax payer and is one of 
the best housing development agencies in the USA.

Thus, I suggest a Michigan State Composting Development Authority using
similar financial means with very low interest rates, to assist farmers,
cafos, etc. in implementing state of the art anaerobic digestors. 

This type of financial assistance would not only solve the odor and
pollution problems when dealing with huge amounts of manure but also,
would generate a substantial alternative "free" energy source via the
methane production, in addition to a substantial source of profit through
the sale of the surplus compost, both of which would make such an
investment an even more attractive solution to the cafo manure problem.

In short, the technology exists to solve the cafo manure problem in
Michigan and since the cafos are not going to disappear in spite of the
many other problems besides odors which they create, an informed political
campaign to force the implementation of anaerobic digestors is the only
long term solution.

Lowell Prag

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