Another one source of contamination of drinking water can be animal facilities. It can be real problem if wastes are not properly managed. Microorganisms, nitrogen, and phosphorus are the main and popular contaminants from manure. There are various types of microorganisms consist in fecal waste. They are the cause of severe illness and disease if ingested. Excessive amounts of nitrogen, in the nitrate form, which is converted to the nitrite form in the body, will prevent oxygen from binding to hemoglobin in the blood. Infants are especially sensitive to excess nitrite and can suffer methemoglobinemia, or “Blue Baby Syndrome”.

Farmers take liquid manure and collect it in catchment ponds or lagoons where it can be degraded by anaerobic bacteria, sunlight, and water. Anaerobic bacteria promote the decomposition of carbon-containing compounds into carbon dioxide and methane, as well as nitrogen into ammonia and ammonium. Farmers very often use the lagoon liquid, which is partially treated waste, as fertilizer in order to take advantage of the nutrients in the manure.

Bacteria and other microorganisms are filtered out by the soil, but it does not cancel that they can enter surface water resources in run-off if waste application rates are high and the soil becomes saturated. Saturation of soil can also contribute to contamination of ground water sources. Contamination can be the result if waste water is applied to fields located adjacent to a stream or lake. Contamination also occurs when lagoons leak. Liquid seeping from a lagoon appears to pose a human health concern only if shallow drinking water wells are located immediately downhill from the lagoon. However, agricultural regions depend upon sunken private wells for drinking water, and since federal regulations do not require monitoring of private wells, it is deal of the owner or user to test their drinking water.

There are many protective practices that can be employed in order to decrease the possibility of water contamination from animal wastes. These practices are often referred to as Best Management Practices (BMP’s).

Some of these practices are:

  1. Do not allow lagoons to overflow and contaminate streams.
  2. Create a riparian buffer zone by lining the lagoon with trees and vegetation. This will provide a rich source of soil microbes which degrade and consume nutrients such as nitrate and phosphorus found in manure.
  3. Divert runoff from land above the barnyard, and divert barnyard runoff away from streams and ponds.
  4. When applying manure, be aware of the location of local drinking water sources, especially private sunken wells.