Manure runoff destroys backyard sanctuary in Newark

Local News

Farmers commonly use manure to help fertilize crops, but where some of that ends up can sometimes cause major problems. Runoff of fertilizer, especially chemical, can get into waterways and create a dangerous environment for wildlife. While using manure to help grow crops is a vital part of farming, a concentrated amount can lead to environmental harm. 

Noel Harradine and Kevin Moody live in Newark and spent the last five years building a backyard destination together after reuniting, previously being college sweethearts and now in retirement. 

“We’ve tried to make this into a wildlife sanctuary, a retirement place that we can enjoy our final years here,” said Harradine. Harradine and Moody met decades ago in college and reunited six years ago. Harradine had the property since 1998 and while it was unkept for many years, recently they made it into a welcoming habitat for animals.  

“We had wonderful fish, wonderful bass, nature put the ‘sunnies’ in there, we don’t know how we got them, and of course the minnows, and they all floated up,” said Harradine. 

In late May the unthinkable happened. Fertilization runoff from a neighboring farm that spread liquid cow manure before a heavy rain. “Not only was the pond dead from that point, it’s going to be dead for quite some time,” said Moody.  

Cows produce manure that is essential for farmers to use as fertilizer to get nutrients back into the land. This can be spread in many different ways including solid and liquid. In this case, the farmer spread liquid manure before a heavy rain that carried it down into Harradine and Moody’s pond.  

That runoff turned clear water into muck and dead fish. The farmer declined to comment for this story, but did verbally commit to helping fix the problem in the future to both the homeowners as well as Wayne County Soil and Water. “We could either just spread manure in strips and leave vegetation in between,” suggested Ian Priestley, farm planner at Wayne County Soil & Water, “that will slow any runoff. We can also put a berm around the pond, around the entrance to it, or make a simple diversion and lead that water that manure. That dirty water into a treatment area.” 

“Can we pump water out?” asked Harradine. “Can we pump fresh water in? Calling people, nobody seems to have an answer.” 

According to the DEC, farms of a certain size and number of cattle, like Concentrated Animal Feed Lots (CAFO) need to follow strict regulations on spreading manure. Smaller ones do it at their own discretion.  

Here is the NYS DEC statement:

DEC received a complaint on June 1 regarding a farm that is not regulated as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) in Wayne County. The complainant reported that manure from a nearby farm was impacting her private pond. The pond is spring fed and also receives surface runoff from farm fields, but does not discharge to New York State waters.

The Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) conducted an on-site assessment on June 2. The farmer stated he was willing to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) to avoid a reoccurrence of this type, including stormwater diversions and buffers.

Since state waters were not impacted and this is a non-CAFO farm, DEC does not have legal jurisdiction. Information about DEC’s CAFO program can be found at: https://www.dec.ny.gov/permits/6285.html

While manure is a more natural fertilizer, the runoff has been linked to harmful algal blooms, like the ones found in the Finger Lakes. 

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