Million-gallon cow manure spill fouls Root River tributaries

A cold spring has aggravated spills and runoff problems.

A million gallons of manure broke through a concrete-walled pit in southeastern Minnesota late Sunday night, fouling two trout streams before making its way into the Root River, in a major spill that has compounded widespread manure runoff problems in farming counties.

The spill is the latest incident in what one county official described as “perfect storm” of manure problems around the state.

The cold, snowy weather means storage pits are overflowing with a winter’s worth of manure, and farmers have little choice other than to spread it on frozen fields. Instead of staying on the soil, however, it’s running off the frozen ground along with rain and melting snow.

“It’s got to be one of the worst seasons I’ve seen,” said Mike Frauenkron, feedlot officer for Fillmore County, where the spill occurred. It’s not clear whether the spill was related to the unusual spring weather, but Frauenkron described it as a major one.

Cathy Rofshus, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in Rochester, said a concrete wall of a manure pit at a 495-head dairy operation fractured, sending about a million gallons of water and manure 700 feet into a ditch, across a road and into Donaldson Creek. That creek feeds into Wisel Creek and into the Root River. She said the MPCA could not identify the dairy operation because the incident is under investigation. On Monday cleanup crews were at the site, berming the wall to prevent more leakage and pumping the rest of the manure out to spread on fields. □

Josephine Marcotty • 612-673-7394

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