Manure and Nutrient Management on the Farm
A written manure and nutrient management plan to control the level of manure runoff from the farm is required by nearly all farmers whose farms generate animal manure or receive manure from sources outside the farm.
This page is designed to assist in this process, and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau members may contact the Government Affairs and Communications Division for any additional assistance.
Online System for Farm Mapping and Nutrient Management and E&S Planning
PaOneStop is an online computer program developed by Penn State University to help farmers meet their regulatory requirements for manure and nutrient management and erosion and sediment control.
Nearly all farmers in Pennsylvania are legally required to develop and implement a written plan to control soil erosion. And nearly all farmers whose farms generate animal manure or receive manure from sources outside the farm are legally required to develop and implement a written plan to control the level of manure runoff from the farm.
Through PaOneStop, farmers are able to create, save and update maps of their farm that provide visual support for the manure management and erosion control measures to be performed in their written plans. Farmers are able to map and identify areas on the farm used in crop production, manure storage areas, animal housing and feedlot areas, waterways and other potentially environmentally sensitive areas, and areas designated for performance of manure management and erosion control practices.
PaOneStop is available to farmers free of charge and without need for additional computer software. And farmers using PaOneStop can control who may access any information saved on the program about their farm.
Information on PaOneStop, including how to register for using the program on your farm, is available at: https://ecosystems.psu.edu/research/labs/land-analysis/projects/paonestop.
Individuals Should Take Extra Precaution When Exposed to Areas Where Manure is Contained or Stored
Farmers, manure haulers, and their employees are reminded to exercise extreme caution when they are within or near areas that hold or contain animal manure. Individuals must be consciously aware of the potential for conditions resulting from storage or containment of manure to pose a high risk of serious injury or death from suffocation or poisoning and take effective action to protect themselves from the risk.
Hazardous levels of gases, including ammonia, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and methane, can accumulate when manure is stored, especially in confined spaces like underground covered waste storage tanks. Open air waste storage facilities and lagoons can also develop and release hazardous levels of these gases, especially during the agitation and pump-out process.
Recently concerns have been raised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service that the use of gypsum for bedding may increase the production of hydrogen sulfide in manure storage facilities. Gypsum is a low-cost byproduct of drywall and contains sulfur. Producers are urged to use extra caution when managing manure storage facilities on operations where gypsum is used.
Hydrogen sulfide can cause discomfort, headaches, nausea and dizziness. At levels above 200 ppm, collapse, coma and death from respiratory failure can occur within seconds of exposure.
Those who manage animal waste should take the following precautions:
- Always have a first aid equipment nearby;
- Have, wear and use personal protective equipment that provides effective detection and insulation of individuals from hazardous air emissions, and effective response to sudden and imminent health threats. Protective equipment should at least include air packs and face masks, a nylon line with snap buckles, safety harness, floatation devices, safety signs and hazardous atmosphere testing kits or monitors.
- Do not enter a manure pit unless absolutely necessary and only then if the pit is first ventilated, air is supplied to a mask or a self-contained breathing apparatus, a safety harness and attached rope is put on and there are two people standing by;
- To minimize hazards, agitation of manure is best done on windy days;
- Understand the symptoms and effects of gas poisoning; and
- During agitation and pump out operations, ensure non-essential workers or bystanders are away from the manure storage facility.
In addition to the above tips, farmers should:
- Have an emergency action plan, including telephone numbers of local emergency personnel;
- Train all family members and employees in first-aid, CPR techniques and safety procedures;
- For open storage facilities, put a fence around it and post “Keep Out” signs that warn of the hazard; and
- Give special instructions to children and those who cannot read in the dangers of manure storage facilities.
Commercial manure haulers and brokers must be certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to ensure manure generated by agricultural operations is safely transported and applied. Applicants must complete training and pass an exam to receive initial certification and then complete continuing educational programs. For more information about manure hauler and broker certification, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us. and search “manure” or call 717-772-5218.
Numerous articles and videos about farm safety, including those related to protection from manure containment hazards, are available on Penn State Extension’s website. Links to those articles and videos can be found at: https://extension.psu.edu/business-and-operations/farm-safety/see-all-farm-safety .
NRCS also provides helpful information on risks and effective measures to minimize health risks from conditions caused storage of manure in its Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook – Operation, Maintenance and Safety. Links to that information can be found at: www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/national/technical/ecoscience/mnm/?cid=stelprdb1045935
Other universities also provide helpful information on safety prevention and response to health threats from manure-caused conditions. They can be discovered by doing a search of “manure pit safety” on your web browser.
Pennsylvania State Regulation of Storage Tanks
Pennsylvania’s Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act (35 P.S. §§ 6021.101 et seq.) governs primarily the state’s regulation of aboveground storage tanks (AST) and underground storage tanks (UST) and storage of certain potentially dangerous or hazardous in those tanks. This Act establishes a comprehensive regulatory program administered through the Division of Storage within the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Determining whether or not your tank is regulated can be complicated, and can depend on several factors, such as size of the tank or storage system, the substance that is stored, and the purpose of use for the substance being stored in the tank. Immediately below is a list of categories of storage tanks that may be subject to or may be exempt from regulation. The list may not include every tank you are currently using.
Tanks located on farms which are NOT regulated under the Act include:
- A farm or residential AST 1,100 gallons or less in capacity used for storing motor fuel or motor oil for noncommercial purposes.
- A farm UST 1,100 gallons or less in capacity used for storing motor fuel or motor oil for noncommercial purposes.
- A farm AST 1,100 gallons or less in capacity used solely to store or contain substances that facilitate the farm’s production of crops, livestock and livestock products.
- A UST storing heating oil used on the premises where stored
- An AST 30,000 gallons or less in capacity storing heating oil used on the premises where stored
- Propane tanks
- Pressure vessels operating at greater than 15 psig
- Liquid manure tanks
- Tanks not containing a regulated substance
- Nonstationary tanks that receive, store or dispense regulated substances at different locations within a 12-month period
Tanks located on farms that ARE regulated under the Act include:
- Farm ASTs and USTs in excess of 1,100 gallons in capacity that store a regulated substance (except for heating purposes, as noted above).
- USTs in excess of 110 gallons in capacity that store a regulated substance (except for heating purposes, as noted above.
For a tank to be a “farm tank” that is exempt from regulation, at least 50 percent of the products marketed must be produced by the farm operator who owns and uses the tank.
If your tank is subject to regulation, you need to understand and comply with all the Act’s requirements that may apply to your tanks. These include:
- Registration of the tank and payment of the annual registration fee.
- Annual payment to the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Fund administered by the Department of Insurance (UST only).
- Use of a department-certified installer to install, modify and close tanks.
- Meeting the technical requirements for tank construction and operation. Total secondary containment is required for new and replacement UST systems.
- Developing and updating a spill prevention response plan for breaches or significant leakage of substances that may occur in the future.
- Monitoring for releases using an appropriate leak detection method, such as inventory control, automatic tank gauging and interstitial monitoring.
- Inspection conducted by department-certified inspectors at the required frequency. An UST facility operations inspection is now required every three years.
- Reporting any confirmed release of a regulated substance to the appropriate DEP regional office and to local water users downstream. This requirement applies even if your tank is not regulated under the Act.
Standards for federal regulation of USTs are generally consistent with the standards established under state law. But you may need to check to see whether any additional federal requirements may apply for your tank.
DEP has produced several Fact Sheets that provide helpful information on storage tank regulation in the Commonwealth. Included among those Fact Sheets are:
- An Overview of PA’s Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act.
- Farm Storage Tank Requirements.
- Storage Tank Registration.
- Financial Responsibility for Underground Storage Tanks.
- Release Detection: Meeting the Requirements.
Links to these and other Fact Sheets can be found at
DEP also has established a toll-free telephone number to help answer your questions
regarding the state’s storage tank regulation program.
That number is 800-42-TANKS .