Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Water: Nonpoint Source Success Stories

Wisconsin

wi
wigraph


In the East River Watershed -
An Animal Waste Treatment Demonstration



Farmers in the East River Watershed, one of 16 watersheds chosen to become a federally funded USDA Water Quality Demonstration Project, are benefiting from their embrace of management practices that enhance water quality and farm profitability. The practices, which include animal waste management systems and constructed wetlands, were the focus of a project carried out as a joint effort of the University of Wisconsin-Cooperative Extension, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the consolidated Farm Services Agency. The East River watershed is in the Green Bay area of northeastern Wisconsin.

Wetlands may be recipient of milkhouse waste

The impacts of milkhouse waste were monitored at different sites along the river. When the data confirmed the need for a viable and cost-effective disposal system for milkhouse waste, the project managers explored the long-term pollution control capability and survivability of small constructed wetlands for this purpose. They also examined the ability of a constructed wetland to remove nutrients and solids in a cold-weather climate that is subject to heavy and intermittent rain events. Once it was determined that the system would be effective and durable, even in Wisconsin's climate, it was recommended as a best management practice (BMP) for treating milkhouse wastes in the East River watershed.

Pipes and a holding tank

The wetland filter system begins with a pipe leading from the milkhouse to a holding tank with a sump pump. Once the waste reaches the tank it remains there until it has accumulated sufficiently to trigger the float control switch. The waste is then pumped to a diverter tank, which directs the effluent to either a settling/flotation tank, which functions as a pretreatment, or directly to the constructed wetlands.

The constructed wetland is a 12-cell system arranged in four parallel rows with three cells in a series in each row. Six of the cells received untreated wastewater; and six, as noted above, received pretreated wastewater. This design made it possible to test the efficiency of the constructed wetland on treated and untreated wastes. In both cases, prior to reaching these cells, the wastewater flows through the weir slot, where samples can be taken automatically or by grab sampling. After flowing through the weir, the waste flows to the first cell, then the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth cells, until it reaches the filter strip and exits the treatment system.

Each cell measures 76 feet by 10 feet. The sides slope to a depth of 18 inches. A layer of sand is placed at the bottom of each cell, then a plastic liner (to prevent any possible groundwater contamination), and a second layer of sand above the plastic liner. Topsoil is laid above the sand and each cell has a berm top. Each one also contains several emergent aquatic plant species.

Results

When the data confirmed the need for a viable and cost-effective disposal system for milkhoue waste, the project managers explored the long-term pollution control capability and survivability of small constructed wetlands.

 

Based on initial results, the constructed wetland does reduce the flow of nutrients in the wastewater. It is probably more effective in the summer months than in the winter when everything is frozen, but further experience and monitoring are necessary to determine if the nutrients trapped in the system remain there, or if they will be flushed from the wetland during spring thaws.

Two other important lessons have emerged from this project. First, samples taken at the beginning of the experiment, that is, before the wastewater enters the wetlands, show that the pretreated wastewater has less nutrient content than the untreated wastewater. However, there is basically no difference between the pretreated and untreated flows when the wastewater exits the wetlands. In this case, pretreatment is probably not necessary.

Second, the system as a whole appears to be overdesigned for the size of the application. During the summer months not enough wastewater is generated to keep all 12 cells of the wetland functioning. The farm operators and project managers agree that the constructed wetlands should be maintained and reconfigured: the pretreatment structure will be dismantled and the wetland will be reduced in size from 12 to 6 cells.


CONTACT: Lynn Goldade
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
(608) 264-9223



Water Action Volunteers Paint the Town -
Wisconsin Citizens Work to Protect Their Resources



Water Action Volunteers (WAV), a partnership combining the Department of Natural Resources' water expertise and the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension's educational skills, coordinate a variety of stream and river activities throughout Wisconsin. WAV provides educational materials and know-how for local volunteers who want to take action to improve water quality.


WAV provides educational materials and know-how for local volunteers who want to take action to improve water quality.

 

WAV groups stencil "Dump No Waste, Drains to River" messages on storm drains to remind people that refuse dumped into storm drains does not disappear but ultimately flows to a waterbody. Groups in more than 60 Wisconsin communities have stenciled nearly 10,000 storm-drain inlets this year. The program has cooperated with the Lake Michigan Federation, Chippewa and Waukesha County land conservation departments, the Adopt-A-Lake program, the Audubon Society, and the Wisconsin River Alliance in painting the towns in Wisconsin.

Another WAV project involves working with others to help clean up Wisconsin's rivers and streams. For example, teamed with America Outdoors and the Wisconsin River Alliance, WAV recently drew 580 volunteers to streambanks and lakeshores for a full day's work. The three groups distributed information and trash bags to these volunteers who collected over 37,000 pounds of garbage to clean up 267 miles of shoreline.


CONTACT: Lynn Goldade
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
608 264-9223

Jump to main content.