Requirements for digesters limit plans for new barns

The Manitoba government passed the Save Lake Winnipeg Act in the spring of 2011, creating new phosphorus regulations in the province.

As part of the law, new hog barns and expansions of existing barns must feature an anaerobic digester, which is an enclosed unit where micro-organisms break down organic matter.

If it doesn’t have a digester, the barn must have equivalent technology to treat the hog manure.

Manitoba’s hog industry has said the rules are excessive and too costly to implement. An anaerobic digester for a small hog barn could cost $1 million.

The Manitoba Pork Council has lobbied for amendments to the law, allowing different and simpler technology to treat the manure.

One alternative is building an additional earthen storage structure, known as a storage cell or lagoon, for the hog manure.

“A multi-cell storage facility: you would separate through a passive system … the solids from the liquids,” said Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork general manager.

“One would flow into the other. You would treat one cell as separate from another, in terms of application of the manure to the field. So the solids, which tend to be higher in phosphorus, you’d apply that at a different rate.”

Dickson didn’t provide a cost estimate for the system.

“The extra cell would be an additional expense, but it’s not huge. It might help in terms of doing a better job of managing your manure.”

Dickson said Manitoba Pork has been talking to the government about this concept and hopes the province amends the regulations soon.

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