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Valdo Farm: A Filtering Swamp for Dairy Waste Water

August 25, 2011

Donald Vallée, from the Valdo Farm in St-Thuribe, in the Portneuf area of Quebec, will be participating in a filtering-swamp pilot project to deal with dairy waste water. This will have an environmental bonus, helping with the revitalization of the Niagarette River.

The filtering swamp is almost like an in-ground pool filled with sand, which purifies the waste water before returning it to the environment. It’s also known as a phytoreactor, since switchgrass plants work to break down harmful elements that result from the dairy’s activities—particularly chlorine, acids and phosphates present in the milking system’s cleaning agents.

An alternative to the manure pit
According to Donald Vallée, the alternative to the swamp would have been to install a manure pit on the farm. However, he chose to participate in this experimental project, since the costs were covered by a $50,000 grant from the Écomunicipalité IGA/Jour de la Terre Québec foundation, which helps finance environmental projects that are relevant today.
This is a pilot project, the first time this type of swamp will be used in an agricultural setting. The goal is to demonstrate that it’s possible to develop new techniques to filter dairy waste water that don’t harm the environment, instead of using manure pits.
The project administrators already had a good idea about the type of planning and materials required, since this kind of purification field exists for other types of businesses, as well as for the treatment of municipal waste water. However, they had to adjust to the agricultural reality, and more specifically to dairy production. One of the first challenges was to determine what types of bacteria could break down the fats in milk, as well as the soaps and acids used in the cleaning of milking systems. The goal was to return uncontaminated water to the river.

How Does a Filtering Swamp Work?
The dairy’s waste water takes at least seven to eight days to pass through the filtering swamp before it reaches the river in a purified state. The process is quite simple. A sewer-pipe system on sloping ground routes the waste water to the filtering swamp by gravity. A first “manhole” filters out bigger particles. Farther along, a perforated pipe runs the width of the swamp and spreads the dairy waters across the “septic field.”
For now, the water purification system of the phytoreactor is made up of sand, gravel and iron filings. Geotextile is used to retain the elements and the circulating waste water. Eventually, bulrushes and switchgrass, planted directly in the swamp, will help water filter through the septic field. A mix of bacteria added twice a day will “eat” away a good deal of the undesirable matter.

Less liquid to manage
Vallée also has a manure pit. “An uncovered pit can accumulate a lot of water within a year,” he says. “Also, without the swamp, all my dairy waste would have to be treated.” Indeed, the farm disposes of about 550 litres of dairy water daily, which is about 200,750 litres annually. The swamp is designed to treat double the amount of the waste water produced in a year.

Jamesway is a manufacturer of silo unloaders, feeders & conveyors and Custom Hauler.



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