Weather Forecast


Underground manure pipeline closer to reality

WORTHINGTON -- Ocheda Dairy Inc. of rural Worthington cleared another hurdle Wednesday night in its plans to construct a permanent pipeline for liquid manure through portions of four sections of Bigelow Township.

Joe VanderKooi appeared before the Nobles County Planning and Zoning Commission Wednesday night to present plans for the pipeline, which will carry liquid manure from Ocheda Dairy (located in Section 15) to land the VanderKoois own in Sections 12, 13 and 14.

In recent years, the VanderKoois have utilized a drag line manure system made up of soft, flexible hose.

"We've pumped as far as seven miles," Joe VanderKooi said of the hose, which is run through ditches and metal stormwater culverts in the fall. The hose feeds into smaller hoses attached to equipment used by custom manure applicators.

Now, instead of that flexible hose being used on a temporary basis, VanderKooi said the dairy wants to bury a plastic feeder line underground -- a project that, while quite a bit safer than using flexible hose, is a "very significant investment," he told the commission.

Permanent feeder lines for liquid manure are becoming more common in Minnesota, and it isn't just with livestock systems. Some city wastewater treatment facilities also utilize underground piping, VanderKooi said. In doing research, he talked with the operators of a large dairy in northwest Minnesota, as well as with a company in west-central Minnesota that installs the feeder lines.

While there would be less risk of tampering with the permanent lines, VanderKooi said, "I can't sit before you and say there absolutely will not be a problem. Drag lines can be hit ... but, it's one of the safest systems.

"We think it's a much smaller percentage of problems to go underground," he added.

At this time, the farmers plan to install approximately one-half mile of 10-inch underground pipe. The depth remains uncertain, VanderKooi said, explaining that the dairy had considered a six-foot depth, but one contractor installs the pipe at a 4.5-foot depth with the top of the pipe 3.5 feet below ground.

"I've talked to two different contractors," VanderKooi said. "It's going to come down to who's able to do it."

The state does not require engineering work to be completed for manure piping systems, but VanderKooi said he's checked regulations at both the state and federal level. He has also talked to the county engineer and the Bigelow Township board, and received permission from the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, in moving forward with the plan.

VanderKooi told commissioners Wednesday night the pipeline will have a tracer locater on it, and it will be entered into GPS. Pressure monitors will be present on each pump, and if there is a loss in pressure, he said the line can be shut down in a matter of seconds to limit manure spills. When the pipeline is not in use, it will have a foam plug in it.

"It will have manure in it for about a week in the fall," VanderKooi said.

Nobles County Environmental Services Director Wayne Smith said because the permit is to install the pipeline in the four sections stated, the VanderKoois can add additional pipeline in those sections without coming in for additional permits.

"I see no problem with it," Planning Commission member Brent Feikema said of the plan. It passed with a unanimous vote, and will now advance to the Nobles County Board of Commissioners for consideration at its June 4 meeting.

Also on Wednesday night's agenda was a request from Andy Weiss, Adrian, for a conditional use permit to construct a 102- by 192-foot total confinement barn with a concrete pit below to house 2,400 wean-to-finish swine in the northeast quarter of Section 3, Westside Township.

Due to opposition from neighbors prior to the meeting, Weiss opted to change the location of the barn from south of an existing building site to the west. With the change in location, the barn will be situated off a minimum maintenance township road.

"I looked at putting it on a county road because of accessibility for hauling manure," Weiss told the commission, adding that with the change in location, he spoke with Westside Township officials about the minimum maintenance road. "They thought they'd be able to take care of the road -- regrade it to keep it open."

The conditional use permit for the new site will require Weiss to build the barn a minimum of 250 feet from the road, but he said he plans to seek a variance to reduce that distance to 100 feet so he could potentially build a second barn on the site in two or three years.

"There is an open water ditch that runs through this farm," Weiss said. "I would like a variance to keep (the barn) closer to the road to stay away from the ditch. Hopefully, moving into that location will not have any negative effects."

Two neighbors to the property spoke in favor of the relocation plans. Dean Elias, who lives southeast of the parcel, said, "I think that's a lot better site than the first plan. I'm totally OK with putting it right there."

Planning and Zoning Commission members unanimously approved the permit with the conditions that there be a dead animal containment structure and manure be incorporated.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

(507) 376-7330