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Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2005 Aug;2(2):314-21.

Impact of animal waste application on runoff water quality in field experimental plots.

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Molecular Toxicology Research Laboratory, NIH-Cennter for Environmental Health, College of Science, Engineering and Technology, Jackson State University, 1400 Lynch Street, P.O. Box 18540, Jackson, Mississippi, USA.


Animal waste from dairy and poultry operations is an economical and commonly used fertilizer in the state of Louisiana. The application of animal waste to pasture lands not only is a source of fertilizer, but also allows for a convenient method of waste disposal. The disposal of animal wastes on land is a potential nonpoint source of water degradation. Water degradation and human health is a major concern when considering the disposal of large quantities of animal waste. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of animal waste application on biological (fecal coliform, Enterobacter spp. and Escherichia coli) and physical/chemical (temperature, pH, nitrate nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, phosphate, copper, zinc, and sulfate) characteristics of runoff water in experimental plots. The effects of the application of animal waste have been evaluated by utilizing experimental plots and simulated rainfall events. Samples of runoff water were collected and analyzed for fecal coliforms. Fecal coliforms isolated from these samples were identified to the species level. Chemical analysis was performed following standard test protocols. An analysis of temperature, ammonia nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, iron, copper, phosphate, potassium, sulfate, zinc and bacterial levels was performed following standard test protocols as presented in Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater [1]. In the experimental plots, less time was required in the tilled broiler litter plots for the measured chemicals to decrease below the initial pre-treatment levels. A decrease of over 50% was noted between the first and second rainfall events for sulfate levels. This decrease was seen after only four simulated rainfall events in tilled broiler litter plots whereas broiler litter plots required eight simulated rainfall events to show this same type of reduction. A reverse trend was seen in the broiler litter plots and the tilled broiler plots for potassium. Bacteria numbers present after the simulated rainfall events were above 200/100 ml of sample water. It can be concluded that: 1) non-point source pollution has a significant effect on bacterial and nutrients levels in runoff water and in water resources; 2) land application of animal waste for soil fertilization makes a significant contribution to water pollution; 3) the use of tilling can significantly reduce the amount of nutrients available in runoff water.

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