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Take Care Closing Manure Storage Structures

When producers decide to shut down their confined livestock operations, they must remember to properly shut down their manure storage facilities as well, according to Purdue University Agricultural Engineer Don Jones

When producers decide to shut down their confined livestock operations, they must remember to properly shut down their manure storage facilities as well, according to Purdue University Agricultural Engineer Don Jones. In the process, producers should be able to recover some of the cost of closing the facilities, he adds.

Producers can convert earthen manure storage structures into freshwater ponds, pasture or cropland, Jones says.

But the conversion process requires careful planning and notifying the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), he says. IDEM is the agency that issues permits for livestock operations in Indiana.

A new Purdue University Extension publication helps walk producers through the process. Closure of Earthen Manure Structures, written by Jones, fellow Purdue professor Alan Sutton, and Ryan Westerfeld of the Indiana Department of Agriculture, is available at

High corn and soybean prices may force some livestock operations to close or suspend business, he acknowledges. “If they do that, they’ll have to do something with their manure storage areas.”

Manure lagoons are a common form of treated earthen manure storage structures, which are used to hold millions of gallons of liquid manure over time to decompose organic matter.

How a producer closes the earthen structure is less important to IDEM than is making sure the environment is protected, Jones says.

“If you’re going to close an earthen structure, you’ll need to clean it out – pump out the liquid – and then refill it with water,” he explains. “You’ll then need to agitate it thoroughly. You may have to complete the process of filling, agitating and emptying the earthen structure two or three times until tests show that you have fairly clean water. At that time, it can be used as a pond. However, this would only apply to structures which have some sort of watershed, such as an outside lot area that is no longer in use so that rainwater can refill the pond.”

The storage structure’s liner should be removed. With a clay liner, the top 6 in. or so of soil probably needs to be removed and, if rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, should be used as crop fertilizer.

A plastic liner should be disposed of in a landfill if the storage area will be converted to pasture or cropland, Jones says.

“Once all the manure has been removed from the storage structure, the producer has to notify IDEM within 30 days, so that IDEM can send an inspector to the farm and verify that the storage has been closed properly,” he says. “If approved, then the producer can finish closing the structure.”

Converting storage structures into usable farmland is a bigger task.

“That will entail the same closure process as turning the storage structure into a pond, plus diverting surface water away from the area,” Jones notes. “Then the area needs to be refilled with soil and mounded, so that it sheds rainwater. At that point, a crop or grass of some sort can be established on the site.”

Jones stresses producers should plan for proper use of the manure from their closed earthen structures.

“The manure has considerable value, especially in times of high fertilizer prices, and should be used for the cropping program,” he says. “If the operator cannot use manure as a fertilizer source in a cropping program, they should work out some sort of arrangement with the neighbors, by either trading the manure or selling it. It doesn’t make any sense to throw away fertilizer nutrients at this point in time in agriculture.”

For producers who expect to resume operations in the future, they won’t need to close the manure storage, but must maintain it as required by their permit. However, if an operation is not resumed within three years, closure procedures must be followed as outlined.

Producers must notify IDEM of closure and stoppage of operations.

For more information about the publication or earthen manure storages, contact Jones at 765-494-1178 or