Farm Begins Cleanup Of Five-Mile Manure Spill in Allegan Co.

Posted at 10:19 PM, Feb 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-17 07:37:57-05

HOPKINS, Mich. (Feb. 16, 2014) — A farm responsible for a five-mile-long manure spill in the waters in Allegan County is still working to clean up the mess.

FOX 17 first got a tip on the spill Friday morning.

When more information was uncovered in the FOX 17 investigation about which farm may have caused the spill, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was able to more aggressively investigate the situation. They discovered Friday afternoon that manure drainage was coming from the Schaendorf Dairy Farm on 130th Avenue near Hopkins.

However, the drainage wasn’t stopped until the following day due to issues with the water and manure storage system on the farm.

Farm owner John Schaendorf, said the spill was finally stopped at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

The MDEQ is currently monitoring the situation.

“It’s going to take time to naturally flush the manure out of the stream and creeks,” said MDEQ Environmental Quality Analys Bruce Washburn. “But the farm is also working to mitigate as much as they can at this point by pumping out water and manure downstream of where the spill occurred to the extent they can.”

The DEQ recommended that the farm physically suck up the liquid manure at a safe location downstream from the spill.

“There was certainly an abundant evidence that there was manure in the water, and the smell was there as well,” said Washburn.

Washburn was the first on the scene from the DEQ to look into the liquid manure spill following the information that came out during the FOX 17 investigation Friday.He said the stream of manure traveled from the Schaendorf Dairy Farm into the Weick Drainage area, moving on to Bear Creek, then behind the city of Hopkins into the Rabbit River, for a total distance of at least five miles.

Washburn first called the farm to ask if there was a problem with runoff from the spreading of manure on the surface of a field. Owner John Schaendorf told Washburn he hadn’t been spreading manure in quite some time.

Washburn went to the creeks to investigate further and determined something was wrong. He went personally to the farm, because he wasn’t sure if the farm had done their own research after that initial phone call.

Schaendorf said he was at a farm show in California when the spill site was discovered on the farm’s property by Washburn on Friday. He said he was grateful that FOX 17 investigated the spill because his workers didn’t detect it. “That’s what was crazy. Nobody noticed it.”

Schaendorf didn’t know exactly how much liquid manure escaped from the storage location into the waters, and neither does Washburn.

“From last night to today (Sunday), the water is much, much better,” said Schaendorf. “We plugged the valve and took vacuum tanks to suck up everything that was coming by downstream.”

“It’s new for everybody.  It’s never happened before,” he said. “We did make sure it isn’t going to happen again.”

The DEQ will be out again Monday to assess how the cleanup has progressed and the impact on wildlife. “We talked with our fisheries division,” said Washburn. “The main concern would be the fish habitat side, if we have any impact on the fish by essentially draining that dry, that’s something that we’re going to have to monitor at this point,” said Washburn.