Manure is an excellent and readily available source of fertilizer for many farms, however, it is important to consider the danger of gas that accompanies working with manure.
In June 2015, a father and son duo from Cylinder, Iowa, were both killed from manure pit gas on their Iowa hog facility (Rodgers and Eller, 2015). During a routine pumping of manure from one of the hog facility pits, the son climbed down into the pit after dropping a piece of equipment and was immediately overcome by the manure gas. His father went in after him and experienced the manure gas as well. Unfortunately, neither survived. Similarly, in 2016, a Wisconsin farmer was agitating manure in an outdoor lagoon before spreading on fields and was also overcome by manure gas (Veselka, 2016).
These stories are not new and serve to remind all of us about the importance of knowing what manure gas we need to be aware of and how we should respond in emergency situations.
What are the gases of concern and why are they dangerous?
Four gases of major importance are ammonia (NH3), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). These gases are produced by microbial activity within the manure from the microbial respiration that occurs (rather than use oxygen for respiration, bacteria utilize inorganic sources like nitrogen and sulfur).
Ammonia (NH3) gas in high concentrations can cause eye ulcerations and severe respiratory aggravation. While NH3 is typically not deadly, it is important to consider long-term exposure effects on respiratory health on those that are in proximity with it on a day-to-day basis.
Just as humans can suffer respiratory effects from inhalation of NH3, other livestock are susceptible as well. In swine, at only 50 ppm, there is an expected decrease in performance and health. Additionally, long-term exposure at 300 ppm+ will cause convulsions (Donham et al., 2010).
Carbon dioxide (CO2) may not appear to pose a threat like some of the other manure gases, however, it is dangerous from the perspective that it can replace the oxygen in your blood. Moderate concentrations of CO2 can lead to shortness of breath and dizziness (National Ag Safety Database, n.d.).
As this is a by-product of livestock respiration, animals in confined spaces can also be affected by asphyxiation from CO2 similar to people. That being said, when examining an extension article by Donham et al. (2010), it is important to note that humans can tolerate up to 260,000 ppm+ before death, while swine can only tolerate up to 200,000 ppm.
Methane (CH4) is not a concern from a human respiratory standpoint. If a building with manure storage is not ventilated properly, it can cause headaches and asphyxiation. Additionally, CH4 tends to build up in the foam that accumulates on the top of liquid manure and is highly flammable according to the Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice (2012). The explosive potential of CH4 is dangerous to both people and livestock within proximity of this gas.
Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the gas most often associated with manure related deaths on farms and is considered to be the most acutely dangerous (National Ag Safety Database, n.d.). This gas travels readily along the ground and in confined spaces, like manure storages. It causes paralysis of the nerve cells in the nose, which deadens the smell at only 100-150 ppm (United States Department of Labor, n.d.). At 700-1,000 ppm, there is rapid loss of consciousness and death can occur in minutes. Additionally, even if someone is exposed to high concentrations of H2S for only a short amount of time, the reaction to the gas can be delayed up to 24 hours and can include pulmonary edema (fluid build-up in the lungs) possibly leading to death. Similarly, other long-term neurological effects from H2S exposure are possible.
Like its counterpart gases, NH3 and CO2, H2S is also a danger to livestock, specifically swine, in that it only takes about 20 ppm to start seeing signs of nervousness, fear of light and loss of appetite (Donham et al., 2010). When concentrations reach 200 ppm, swine may experience pulmonary edema and death shortly thereafter.
What are some of the signs of being overcome by manure gases?
While several signs of being overcome by manure gasses have been mentioned, there are others to be on the lookout for as well. Some of these signs include feeling hot and clammy, loss of motor skills, irregular/fast heartbeat, tightness of chest, panting, nausea/vomiting and anxiety (Meinen, 2016).
How can I measure manure gases?
There are several different types of manure gas monitors that can be utilized on the farm. The monitor used depends on the farm as well as the location of the manure storage and whether it is a confined or unconfined space. It is important to consider the type of gas you may come into contact with as well as the price that works in your budget.
A list of the different types of manure gas monitors are depicted by Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice (2012a) and the costs to purchase this equipment from the year 2011 (Steel et al., 2011).
What are ways to prevent a dangerous situation?
Follow manufacturer recommendations of equipment when agitating and handling manure in an enclosed pit to ensure:
- Proper ventilation.
- Fans are on and working.
- Equipment is operating correctly.
When working around or near a manure pit:
- Let someone know where you are and what time you are going. This allows a person to know right where to look if you are not back in a timely manner.
- If someone you know or even an animal/pet is overcome by manure gas, do not go in after them unless you have proper respiratory protection.
- Should you encounter a situation where someone goes down and is unconscious, immediately call 911 as first responders have the proper respiratory equipment and training to enter into these dangerous situations.
- If it is available, wear a gas monitor or have one in the manure storage to detect manure gas concentrations that may be approaching dangerous, life-threatening levels.
- When manure is being agitated, be aware of your positioning to the pit and where the manure gases are likely to settle.
- It is also important to be cognizant of manure tankers and how easily manure gases can settle inside this type of small and confined space.
- Gases have a tendency to settle inside tankers as well as leak out the top, which can pose a threat to those who examine and clean the tankers.
- Wear personal protective equipment, like a proper fitting respiratory mask, if you go into a confined manure storage.
By understanding the dangerous gases found in manure, knowing the warning signs of a person who is experiencing high concentrations of manure gases and implementing safe practices when working around manure, there is the potential for fewer accidents and deaths. Who knows, you just may save a life, maybe even your life.
A University of Iowa study shows the state's contribution to the Gulf dead zone spiked 47 percent to 618 million pounds in 2016, based on five-year running annual averages. | READ MORE
The changes, under the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' ch. NR 151, Wis. Adm. Code, relate to Silurian bedrock, which are areas where the soil depth to bedrock is shallow and the bedrock may be fractured.
"The main purpose of this targeted performance standards is to reduce the risk for contamination in groundwater from manure applications on shallow bedrock soils," said Mary Anne Lowndes, DNR Watershed Management Section chief.
Lowndes said Silurian bedrock soils identified in the rule revisions are dolomite bedrock with a depth of 20 feet or less. The rule targets an area in the state that may include portions of Brown, Calumet, Dodge, Door, Fond du Lac, Kenosha, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Sheboygan, Walworth, Washington, and Waukesha counties.
"Within a specified area, the rule sets forth manure spreading rates and practices that vary according to the soil depth and texture," said Lowndes. "For Silurian bedrock, the most restrictive practices apply to those limited areas with the highest risk for pathogen delivery, zero to five feet in depth, and less restrictive requirements apply in areas with five to 20 feet to bedrock."
Lowndes added that Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the Silurian bedrock areas will be required to comply with the standards in the new rule, when it is incorporated into their permit under the Wisconsin Pollution Discharge Elimination System (WPDES), and a cross reference to the targeted performance standard language has also been added to ch. NR 243, Wis. Adm. Code., which applies to CAFOs subject to WPDES permitting. Non-permitted farms in Silurian bedrock areas will also be required to comply with the standards in the rule.
Lowndes added the DNR has worked with the University of Wisconsin Department of Soil Science to offer a Silurian bedrock map (exit DNR) tool that can be used to identify areas where the bedrock soil depth is less than 20 feet, and that the department is working with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection and county land conservation departments on how best to implement the new rules.
The new rule is based on a long-term effort by the department to seek public input on changes to NR 151, including conducting studies, public meetings and hearings and hosting a technical advisory committee and Groundwater Collaboration Workgroup that met between 2015-2017.
About 190,000 gallons of liquid manure were released from an above-ground storage tank at the dairy operation on April 12, 2017, the Oregon Department of Agriculture said.
The manure pooled in a field near the dairy barns, flowed across three other landowners’ properties, and ended up in a slough that connects to a drainage system that pumps water into the Tillamook River, which then enters the bay. READ MORE
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does every employee understand the risks associated with confined manure handling systems?
- Have they received proper training when dealing with confined manure handling systems?
- Do you have the appropriate hazard signage posted near the confined manure handling system, warning people of the dangers?
- Do you have the appropriate safety gear available and have you provided instruction to employees on using the equipment?
- Do you have employees with limited English speaking skills?
- Do they fully understand the safety risks and signage provided?
- Do employees and family members have the ability to communicate location directions in an emergency 911 call?
So what is the risk with confined manure handling systems? Understanding that there is risk associated with manure pits and manure lagoons is important. They both produce toxic gases as the manure undergoes anaerobic digestive fermentation. The gases produced and the characteristics of each are below:
Methane – is an odorless gas that is flammable or explosive at concentrations of 5 to 15 percent by volume of air. The gas is lighter than air and typically found near the top of the pit and high enough concentrations can cause death by suffocation.
Hydrogen sulfide – is an extremely toxic gas with a “rotten egg” smell at low concentrations and which at high concentrations can paralyze the olfactory senses. It is heavier than air and often settles towards the bottom of the manure pit. At low concentrations it can cause dizziness, headache, nausea, and respiratory tract irritation. At high concentrations it can cause unconsciousness, respiratory failure and death within minutes. It is also explosive at various concentrations.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – is an odorless gas that is heavier than air and often settles near the bottom of the manure pit. At low concentrations it causes labored breathing, drowsiness and headaches. In high concentrations it can displace enough oxygen and cause death via suffocation.
Ammonia (NH3) - has sharp odor characteristics that irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Exposure to high concentrations can be fatal.
Besides understanding the various types of gases produced in confined manure handling systems, you should also follow these guidelines when working around confined manure handling systems.
These are enclosed manure storage structures, which should be equipped with ventilation systems. They are often found in dairies as manure is pumped out to a lagoon or in confined swine operation buildings or certain types of beef finishing operations that utilize a confined building.
Follow these safety guidelines around manure pits:
- Keep all manure pits ventilated and fans working properly.
- Keep all manure pits covered with appropriately ventilated grating.
- Post hazard signs near all manure pit entry point locations.
- Never enter a manure pit unless absolutely necessary and only when proper safeguards are utilized.
- If entry into the pit is necessary, test the air for toxic gases.
- Never enter a manure pit unless someone is standing by and maintaining constant contact. The person standing watch should be able to lift an unconscious person wearing a safety harness attached to a lifeline. They should NEVER enter the pit trying to rescue someone and have the ability to communicate necessary information in case of an emergency 911 call.
- Always wear a safety harness that attached to a mechanical device such as a winch, hoist or pulley. This is your lifeline, so the person on the outside must maintain constant contact with the lifeline.
- Always wear a positive-pressure, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA).
- Provide a powered, explosion proof air ventilation system for each manure pit that will help bring in a continuous fresh air supply.
- NEVER enter a manure pit to attempt a rescue without a safety harness and proper respiratory protection!
They also produce toxic gases in localized layers, which, especially on hot, humid days with little breeze can cause a health hazard and potential death. Gases are readily released when lagoons are agitated to remove manure to be incorporated as fertilizer into the fields. They often have a thick liquid, floating crust, which can make swimming and buoyancy difficult if you were to slip or fall into the lagoon. Additional safety guidelines for manure lagoons are as follows:
- Open-air lagoons should be fenced off around the perimeter with locked access gates to keep unauthorized people or unwanted animals from accidentally entering them.
- Hazard signs posted at entry points warning of toxic gases and drowning dangers.
- Wear a safety harness attached to a lifeline with someone on the other end that can drag you out if it is necessary to enter the lagoon.
- Rescue equipment such as flotation devices and lifelines attached to every manure pump.
- Move slowly around manure lagoons as the ground can be uneven causing a person to trip and fall.
- Never work alone but all other unnecessary bystanders should stay away from access points or pump-out points.
- No horseplay allowed in these areas.
- No smoking or open flames allowed near agitation or pumping areas due to the explosive gases that may be present.
- If equipment breakdown occurs during agitation or pumping shut it down and remove it from the lagoon area before servicing.
- Follow the same 911 emergency call guidelines as manure pits, be able to describe the situation, number of victims, location and directions.
“As you are well aware, hurricanes can produce a lot of rain over a short period of time so now is the time to check your lagoon levels,” she said. “If you expect you are near the path of this hurricane, lower your lagoons to the stop pumping levels, which can be found in your nutrient management plan. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Just always remember safety comes first so be careful out there.”
She also forwarded an alert from the University of Georgia’s agriculture climatologist, Pam Knox, who has been watching the progress of Hurricane Irma.
“If you are in south Georgia, you could see impacts from the storm as early as Saturday [Sept 9], although most likely you will not see much until Sunday [Sept 10] morning,” Knox said. “The major impacts from the storm in Georgia are likely to be strong winds, locally heavy rains and potential storm surge and high waves if you are along the coast. Some tornadoes are also possible. Because the storm is so powerful, the strong winds and rain could spread out a long way from the center of the storm, so do not let down your guard if the center does not come close to you.”
“With wet soils and trees that have been stressed from droughts in previous years, I expect a lot of trees to fall, cutting electrical power to many locations if the storm does not weaken as it moves up from Florida.”
“Since power may be out, it would be wise to make sure you have gas and cash for several days just as a precaution,” Knox stated. “Because Irma is moving along at a pretty good clip, we do not expect to see the amount of rain that Texas received from Harvey, but local areas could see some fresh-water flooding. Because of that, agricultural producers may wish to move machinery and livestock to higher terrain.”
Knox will be posting updates on her blog [http://blog.extension.uga.edu/climate] as well as on Facebook at SEAgClimate and on Twitter at @SE_AgClimate through the week.
Increasing this awareness led Dan Andersen, assistant professor and ag engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension, to create a series of four publications that provide information and resources to help farmers stay safe when working with manure.
"One breath of hydrogen sulfide at 500 parts per million is enough to render someone unconscious almost immediately," warns Andersen. "When you are working with a manure pit, and once you realize the gas is a problem, it's usually too late. Hydrogen sulfide gas smells at 1 to 2 parts per million, but levels above that amount knocks out your ability to smell, so our natural detection system goes away."
Pit gas monitors recommended
Information about the importance of monitoring for hydrogen sulfide and the types of monitors available for purchase is available in publication AE 3603, Hydrogen Sulfide Safety — Monitoring.
Monitors are available from ISU Extension, which has several models for farmers to test. READ MORE
Mike Biadasz, 29, went out to agitate a manure pit on his family's farm near Amherst, when the crust layer on top of the pit opened, hydrogen sulfide gas was expelled. He died on Aug. 15, 2016 after being poisoned by methane gas.
The Assembly honored the young resident with a resolution that acknowledged his dedication to farming and the need for best practices to be established for manure pit agitation that mitigate risk and educate the public on hydrogen sulfide poisoning and other toxic gases.
Relating to: honoring the life and contributions of Michael "Mike" Robert Biadasz.
Whereas, Michael "Mike" Robert Biadasz was born on March 22, 1987, in Stevens Point and passed away on August 15, 2016; and
Whereas, Mike attended Amherst Elementary and Middle School and graduated from Amherst High School in 2005; and
Whereas, Mike dedicated his life to farming at a young age, attending Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield and Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton and advancing in the Farming and Agricultural program; and
Whereas, Mike lived by the adage, "Live today like you are going to die tomorrow, but farm today like you are going to farm forever"; and
Whereas, Mike enjoyed hunting and the outdoors and spending time with friends and family, and always loved to make people laugh; and
Whereas, Mike was considered by many as a best friend and touched so many people throughout his life that more than 1,200 people attended his visitation to pay their respects; and
Whereas, Mike will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and neighbors; and
Whereas, Mike is survived by his parents, Robert and Diane Biadasz of Amherst, and three sisters: Amy (Tim) Tryba of River Falls and their children Everett, Bennett, and Hewitt; Lisa (Nathan) Grezenski of Rosholt and their children Jacob, Tyler, and Natalie; and Megan (Matt) Check of Wausau; and
Whereas, Mike's legacy will live on in his family and friends, who are encouraging farmers to attend safety training classes for best practices in manure pit management and heightening public awareness of hydrogen sulfide poisoning along with other toxic gases; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the assembly, That the members of the Wisconsin State Assembly declare August 15, 2017, Mike Biadasz Day and recognize that his lifelong passion of farming will live on in his legacy; and, be it further
Resolved, That the members of the Wisconsin State Assembly call upon all stakeholders in public health, agriculture, education, and training that best practices be established for manure pit agitation that mitigate risk and educate the public on hydrogen sulfide poisoning and other toxic gases.
Resolved, That the assembly chief clerk shall provide a copy of this joint resolution to Robert and Diane Biadasz.
About 75 emergency response personnel and farmers gathered June 12 at Cottonwood Dairy Farm just outside Wiota for a training session designed to help them understand the hazards of manure storage and handling systems. The workshop focused primarily on confined space and manure as safety procedures.
Cheryl Skjolaas, UW-Madison/Extension agriculture safety specialist, and Jeff Nelson, UW-Madison machinery specialist and volunteer firefighter, took participants to various spots on the farm to see the farm's manure pits and associated equipment during the training session.
They talked about equipment that is safe to use in confined spaces, such as gas monitors and ventilation equipment, and fall protection devices. READ MORE
And while the province says it wants to grow the industry, Hog Watch Manitoba said it has several issues with a recent proposal to make changes to the Livestock Manure and Mortalities Management Regulation (LMMMR). READ MORE
To help both farmers and emergency response personnel understand the hazards of manure storage and handling systems, a safety workshop will be held at Cottonwood Dairy LLC, at 9600 Hwy D, South Wayne (southeast of Wiota) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., June 12. Please arrive by 6:15 p.m. to sign in. READ MORE
As part of research being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists with the University of Saskatchewan, the Prairie Swine Centre, the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute and VIDO-InterVac are working to automate the cleaning of swine transport vehicles to speed up the process and cut the cost.
VIDO-InterVac is responsible for identifying approaches to inactivate the key pathogens responsible for the transmission of disease.
Dr Volker Gerdts, the associate director of research with VIDO-InterVac, said in this project scientists focused on temperatures and the amount of time at those temperatures needed to inactivate 12 pathogens, six bacteria and six viruses, considered important to the swine industry.
"Viruses in general are a little bit more difficult to inactivate because they are inside the cell but we also had a few bacteria, Streptococcus suis for example, which is also relatively resistant to heat," Dr. Gerdts said.
"If you were able to use a very high temperature, like 80 degrees, all of these pathogens will be destroyed within a very short period of time," he said. "Going lower, like at 60 or 65 degrees Celsius, then it would take much longer so it's really a combination of temperature and time.
"I can't really give you all of those but, if you were to go with a high temperature, like 80 degrees for example, that would be sufficient to kill most pathogens within minutes," he added. "If you were going to go with 70 or 65 degrees then you're probably looking more at 15 minutes or something like that."
Dr Gerdts noted the industry is using this approach already.
He said after cleaning, washing and disinfecting, they're baking the trailers but the various units are using slightly different temperatures and slightly different schedules.
Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judge Thomas F. Burke Jr. decided to grant motions for summary judgment for the defendants and against a long list of plaintiffs who are landowners and neighbors of the hog operation. READ MORE
While the conditions are still fresh, every operation should take stock of manure storage options and look for ways to avoid application in these situations. Over the last few weeks, I have heard more comments than usual from farm and non-farm folks alike about seeing neighbors spreading manure on barely trafficable fields or even from the edge of the road.
If you find your operation in this situation, or if you strained to find fields that can hold up the tractor and spreader without getting stuck, runoff risk is likely to be high and application should be avoided whether you are a regulated farm or not. Spreading just before rain or snowmelt can be just as risky, even if a field can be driven on without getting stuck.
For stackable manure in the short term, temporary pile locations can be identified with the help of SWCD, NRCS, or private sector planners until better storage options can be installed.
New York State and federal cost share options are available annually; meet with your local SWCD and/or NRCS staff to start the process. The Dairy Acceleration Program can help with cost of engineering on farms under 700 cows.
Position your operation for the future: evaluate manure storage needs and implement solutions.
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Wisconsin Farm Technology DaysTue Jul 23, 2019
North American Manure ExpoWed Jul 31, 2019 @ 8:00am - 05:00pm
Manure Science Review 2019 Wed Aug 07, 2019
Elgin Compaction DayThu Aug 08, 2019
World Dairy Summit Mon Sep 23, 2019
BioCycle REFOR19Mon Oct 28, 2019