The east-facing wall of the above ground manure pit at Soiney Farms collapsed during the evening of Sunday, April 14. Manure flowed into the ditch below the pit, across the road and into Donaldson Creek. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has been testing it and Wisel Creek for pollution.
The east-facing wall of the above ground manure pit at Soiney Farms collapsed during the evening of Sunday, April 14. Manure flowed into the ditch below the pit, across the road and into Donaldson Creek. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) has been testing it and Wisel Creek for pollution.
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"It's not unheard of, but it's not that common as well," commented Cathy Rofshus, public information officer from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) regarding the recent manure spill east of Canton at Soiney Farms. The MPCA has been the main state agency involved with investigating the spill and the effects that could come with it.

According to Rofshus, around 9 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, a call was taken at the State Duty Officer operations center with an initial report that there was a leak on the Soiney property. Staff from the MPCA was dispatched the following morning and began working with Fillmore County feedlot officer Mike Frauenkron to deal with not just a small leak, but a massive collapse of the manure pit's eastern wall.

The 2.3 million gallon capacity manure pit was built only a year and a half ago and, according to Larry Soiney, was approved by the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). According to Todd Soiney, the pit was built above ground because the bedrock in the area is too close to the surface. It is not known why the wall collapsed although further investigation will be completed.

When the wall collapsed, most of the manure in the top layer was liquid manure with rainwater received that weekend. This manure flowed down the ditch, over the gravel road and into the adjacent field. Donaldson Creek can be found directly across from the manure pit and the manure flowed into the intermittent stream, which was running high from storm water. Donaldson Creek runs into Wisel Creek, which in turn runs into the South Fork Branch and then the Root River. The manure traveled around 700 feet toward and around the stream.

Main concerns center on the amount of manure that went into the creek and the possible effects on water quality and stream life. An initial estimate placed the amount of gallons of manure lost to be between 750,000 and one million, although farmer Todd Soiney said he thought the amount would be much lower, around 350,000 gallons. Much of the manure in the pit was semi-solid or solid and clean-up has been going on since the spill. Dirt berms were placed around the wall on Monday morning to hold back more manure from escaping.

Pumper trucks normally used for septic systems were called in on April 16 to clean up the manure which had flowed into the ditch by the road. Over 30 neighbors of the Soineys have helped out in the clean-up effort, which was being done as quickly as possible, so as to avoid any rain or snowfall from interfering.

The investigation into why the wall collapsed won't be completed for a few months. Already though, the environmental consequences are being better understood. DNR Area Fisheries supervisor Steve Klotz said the DNR assessment has failed to turn up any significant effect to water quality. Klotz is mainly concerned with fish kills, which are possible when the amount of oxygen in the water is depleted through contamination.

He visited Wisel Creek on Monday and reported not being able to see the bottom of the stream. The MPCA has not reported on any signs of fish kills and Klotz said he doesn't think they will come.

The amount of rain received will play a key role in how soon the streams clear up. Dilution of the contaminants occurs with increased rain, but more rain could also mean more contaminated runoff from the area.

"This stream has its abuse during high water events," Klotz shared, explaining what he has seen in the past week. He also brought up the potential the manure could have in contaminating groundwater. "With our karst topography, basically our surface water and ground water are connected and contaminants spread more quickly to groundwater. It always a possibility," he shared.

The catch and keep season for trout opened on April 13, the day before the manure spill. Klotz said Wisel Creek was fishing well at the opener, a statement fellow fisherman and nearby landowner Tim Grady agreed with.

"We have wonderful fishing on that creek," he shared. "They caught between 75 and 100 fish even in the high water on Saturday." Grady said he hopes the stream is diluted enough.

Speaking on the manure spill, he shared, "I guess it was an accident waiting to happen. You would think there would be more stringent regulations."

Rofshus said once the investigation is completed, an evaluation will be done to see if further regulation on manure pits is needed.

The road running past the farm was closed for a while after the spill, but has since been reopened. Larry Soiney said he was glad nobody was driving past the pit at the time of the collapse. "It could've have been worse," he said.

According to Todd Soiney, water samples taken by the MPCA have shown very little contamination. This, coupled with optimistic prognoses from Rofshus and Klotz bode well for the stream environment.

Time will tell to see if those predictions are correct.