Researchers Investigating Ways To Manage Dairy Wastewater

Brian LeBlanc, Moreira, Vinicius R., Morgan, Johnny W.  |  4/19/2005 10:29:11 PM

News Release Distributed 08/20/04 

Scientists at the LSU AgCenter’s Southeast Research Station in Franklinton are beginning a research project designed to help dairy farmers with wastewater management.

Dr. Vinicius Moreira, an LSU AgCenter researcher, said the project includes the construction of two primary lagoons, two secondary lagoons and six simulated wetlands areas at the research station that will allow different management practices to be compared.

"We will release the wastewater from the dairy barns into the primary lagoons for anaerobic fermentation," Moreira explained, adding, "Then it will flow into the aerobic lagoons and finally into the wetlands area."

The project is designed to determine if the different plants used to absorb nutrients will produce water safe enough to release into rivers and streams after it moves through the wetlands stage of the process.

Moreira is working with fellow researcher Dr. Jerry Ward and LSU AgCenter colleague Dr. Brian Leblanc on the project. All three have worked on designing the wastewater system and overseeing its construction. They also will work cooperatively on the tests.

LeBlanc, who works in the Lake Pontchartrain watershed area, said the system they are constructing is different from what dairy farmers typically use now, because of the second set of lagoons and the wetlands area.

"The main purpose of this study is to look at other options to treat dairy waste," LeBlanc said, adding, "Dairy farmers normally pump their waste into one lagoon, and the longer it stays in there, the more treatment occurs.

"Hopefully our constructed wetlands will prove to be a cost-effective alternative to take out the excessive nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen."

The LSU AgCenter research project is funded in part by an initiative started by Congressman David Vitter that is known as the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Program.

"This study could have a direct impact on rivers and streams in our area by providing the dairy industry with more options to treat dairy waste," LeBlanc stressed.

He said phosphorus and nitrates in all wastewater can contribute to the algae blooms in waterways. Those, in turn, can deplete the oxygen and result in death of fish and other aquatic life.

LeBlanc said pickerelweed and bull tongue are plant species that will initially be used in the project to abate these nitrates.

"These plants will be evaluated in the first phase of the research," LeBlanc said. "Then later as the effectiveness of these plants become understood, others will be evaluated."

The experts say these plants will have to be removed occasionally, because of the biomass that is produced over time. "We could potentially make compost out of these plants and use them as garden or field fertilizers," LeBlanc said.

Moreira said the first lagoon should take care of most of the pathogens. The secondary lagoon should take care of the odor compounds in the wastewater, and then the wetland area will filter the nutrients.

"At that point, we should be able to release this water into lakes and streams if the quality is good enough," he said. "If not, we will spread it on pastures and fields to recycle the remaining nutrients."

The researchers have been planning this project for some time. While construction of the initial facilities is under way, they say the research is expected to be a long-term project to look at the various types of treatments that could work best for dairy producers.

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Contacts: Brian LeBlanc at (985) 543-4129 or bleblanc@agcenter.lsu.edu
Vinicius Moreira at (985) 839-2322 or vmoreira@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or jmorgan@agcenter.lsu.edu

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