Sizing Up Manure Digesters As A Water Quality Solution

Technology Can Help With Pollution Issues, But Isn't A Panacea
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Chesapeake Bay Program (CC BY-NC 2.0)

As the state calls for ideas that use manure digesters to help improve drinking-water quality in Wisconsin, it's helpful to better understand how the actual functions of digesters align with the problem at hand.

Wisconsinites in places around the state have found viruses, bacteria, nitrate and other contaminants in the private wells they rely on for drinking water. One major source of the pollution is dairy farms and the massive amount of manure they produce and spread over fields.

As state officials draft their plans for digesters, Wisconsinites can and can't expect several results from use of this technology. Specialists have said digesters can reduce odor, kill some pathogens, and generate energy and revenue, but they have limitations as well, and are not a comprehensive solution to the water-quality problems related to waste from dairy farms.

Listen to Wisconsin Public Radio's Brady Carlson and WisContext's Scott Gordon discuss the issue.

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