New method of treating manure from dairies in the works

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Russel Davis, founder of the compost company Organix, talks to the Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club about a new method for treating dairy wastewater.

Big changes are coming to the way dairies treat cow waste, according to Organix founder Russell Davis, speaking to the Sunnyside Noon Rotary Club Monday.

Davis said a Chilean company called BioFiltro has pioneered a method that removes more than 70 percent of the nitrogen from dairy wastewater, making it a potential game-changer for dairies in the area.

Davis, whose business is helping industries handle waste materials through composting, said the method is simple, natural and surprisingly effective. In addition, the waste from the process is itself a high-quality compost.

“If you think about it, the average cow produces 75 pounds of milk a day, but 125 pounds of manure,” said Davis. “It’s almost more important to deal with the manure than the milk.”

Davis said his business is turning that manure into profit through composting. When he heard about BioFiltro’s method of treating dirty water, he was at first skeptical.

“I’ve seen a lot of things that people say will solve the manure problem,” he said. “There’s always a magic powder or new trick in the works. This one went through a lot of scrutiny.”

The BioFiltro method involves building a giant compost bunker and seeding it with worms acclimated to the wastewater to be treated. Dairies then spray their wastewater into the bunker.

“Out of that 125 pounds of manure, 100 pounds of it is water,” Davis said.

Building a compost bunker is 50 percent cheaper for initial construction and far more inexpensive to run than current methods, according to Davis. In addition, BioFiltro’s project results in worm castings, which are valuable fertilizer.

“Worm castings are basically worm poop,” said Davis. “But they are really expensive to buy because they make the best fertilizer.”

Davis said BioFiltro has set up a test project in Royal City that has been successful so far. The tests on the treated water show more than 80 percent reduction in nitrates. With the additional potential of making a quality fertilizer, Davis said the main industry players are watching what happens in Royal City very closely.

“We’re not going to get rid of dairies soon,” said Davis, listing off dairy products. “We’d better fix these problems. This reduces the nitrates and creates an economic opportunity.”



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