Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is reminding Gippsland dairy farmers to maintain their dairy effluent ponds in preparation for the wetter months ahead.
The reminder follows a series of inspections in the Gippsland region in 2016 that found a number of overflowing effluent ponds were at risk of harming the local environment.
EPA officers issued 19 Gippsland dairy farmers with statutory notices and issued another with an official warning requiring they ensure effluent systems did not overflow and discharge off properties and impact on local waterways.
EPA also recently issued a fine to a Drouin farmer for failing to make changes to his farm to prevent any further dairy effluent discharges.
EPA Gippsland Manager Stephen Lansdell said the notices would ensure farmers understood their responsibilities in keeping dairy effluent on their property.
“Dairy effluent is actually a valuable resource which, when managed well, increases pasture production and reduces fertiliser costs. It really is a classic case of good for business, good for the environment,” Mr Lansdell said.
“Autumn is a critical time for diary effluent management. Farmers should have ensured by now that their effluent systems and ponds had adequate capacity to take all dairy shed wastes in preparation for the wetter months ahead.
“It is not good enough to allow effluent ponds to simply overflow into the surrounding environment. Especially in the Gippsland region where so many others rely on that environment for their livelihood, and we all enjoy such special areas like the Gippsland Lakes.
“Dairy farmers can manage effluent ponds by de-sludging, removing vegetation and weeds on and around ponds and irrigating the water component to pasture when weather conditions are appropriate to ensure no overflow occurs.
“Poorly managed effluent ponds can overflow, causing surface water and land pollution. Increased nutrients in waterways from dairy effluent can also reduce oxygen levels, which in turn can affect plants and animals, contributes to algal blooms and increases the risk of disease from E.coli and pathogens.”
Mr Lansdell said that EPA officers would continue to monitor Gippsland dairy farms to ensure the local environment was protected, and any notice requirements were met. Mr Lansdell said that help and support was there for farmers that needed it.
“EPA recognises regulation is only part of the solution. We work with others in the sector such as Agriculture Victoria and Dairy Australia to provide practical advice, guidance and resources including free effluent testing programs.”
Guidelines on effective effluent management on dairy farms can be found by visiting this link.
EPA urges people to report suspected pollution to the EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or at www.epa.vic.gov.au
Agriculture Victoria, Dairy Australia and dairy regional development programs such as GippsDairy have a range of tools which can assist farmers.
Agriculture Victoria, Regional Manager – Dairy Extension, Jessie Horton said the region’s local Dairy Extension Officer can provide free effluent testing and a health check of current effluent systems.
“Information is provided on the best use of the valuable nutrients and the storage capacity of your ponds based on cow number, water use in the dairy and rainfall,” she said.
For further information on this service, contact Agriculture Victoria on 136 186.
For further information on how to design or to update current effluent systems, please visit: http://dairyinfrastructure.com.au/planning/effluent-system-designers/.
For further information about managing dairy effluent, please refer to the National FertSmart Guidelines for the dairy industry at: http://fertsmart.dairyingfortomorrow.com.au/dairy-soils-and-fertiliser-manual/chapter-13-using-dairy-effluent/