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

Enviro-Mich message from geodynamics@comcast.net


I agree with your thesis that closed vessel anaerobic digestion is a much
better way of handling the wastes than what is done now. Orders of magnitude
better. However, going "dry" takes away the cleanliness of the water-flushed
floor and, without significant design changes, will likely lead to more odor
(plus dust and gas) problems in the confinement buildings. In addition,
there will have to be new-hires who can be trained in the operation of a
batch-fed digestion facility -- that takes more education, ethics and smarts
than local drop-outs can provide. But, never-the-less, it could work.

As you imply, odors associated with spreading the digested wastes would be
much less offensive than the anaerobic liquor that is sprayed onto or
"injected" into the soil -- more of an earthy smell than the
tear-your-guts-out and bleed-your-eyes stench. This, of course, assumes that
the digestion process has been completed -- if you pull it out too early,
all bets are off.

The problem of over-application of the digested wastes still remains,
however. You simply cannot put more nutrients into the soil than what the
crops can efficiently remove before the nutrients migrate below the root
zone. I continue to argue that the best area to dispose of the wastes in on
deep-rooted prairie-type vegetation, not annual croplands, particularly
early in the season and later in the summer.

You make an assumption about selling the digested wastes that I'm not sure
could be accomplished. I presume that you expect local farmers to avail
themselves of a low-cost "organic" soil amendment in lieu of the
manufactured chemicals they now use. If, for whatever reason, there is no
market for the wastes, even for a year, what happens to the excess? If, as a
farmer, I would be even remotely interested in accepting (let alone buying)
the wastes, I'd surely want a complete assay of the composition, with a
great deal of focus on the presence of antibiotics and other "amendments"
that are pushed into the animals or applied to their environs.

My root problem with the modern ideas is that they require a bit more
attention to properly operate. Yes, you and I can look at the idea and say
sure, it's simple and it should work without any problems. But, then you
have to step back and recognize that it'll be the same folks, running the
more complicated new stuff, that can't figure out that their lagoons are
overflowing, that can't figure out that agronomic rates doesn't mean spray
irrigating winter wheat in November and can't figure out why their neighbors
are in a rage.

I will continue to argue that, in settings and climates like Michigan's, the
amount of livestock on a farm or CAFO, should be limited to what that land
area can directly support by either pasture or feed-crops.

Short of eliminating CAFOs entirely, I would surely support anaerobic
digesters, as I would odor removing biofilters for the confinement buildings
(allegedly 90% efficient if properly operated). Most importantly, though, I
would want to see a state-licensed plant operator for each of the CAFOs.
That individual would carry significant liability for the proper operation
of the facility as it relates to waste management.

Tim Carpenter

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lowell Prag" <lprag@mail.msen.com>
To: "Enviro-Mich" <enviro-mich@great-lakes.net>
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2003 12:11 PM
Subject: 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
> compost.
> 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
> Michigan.
> 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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