Protecting the farmstead from environmental hazards: Pointers from MAEAP

Farmstead Protection

The farming scene in Cass County is at the forefront of agriculture in the state of Michigan. Every farm is unique in its operation; from variation in product to the nutrient management strategies, every farm business has developed an effective style of conducting its operation. The farmstead is an extension of this, and each farmstead has its own layout, along with the farm family’s sentimental stories about a particular piece of equipment and other memories from the old days.

But what are the commonalities between local farmsteads? It is safe to say that most local farmsteads are comprised of some basic items: A well, garage, shop, fuel storage, and maybe some fertilizer or pesticide storage. Farmsteads are designed for convenience; easy and quick fueling of equipment for example. While convenience is key, so is safety for the environment, the farmers, and their families. The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), and the Cass County Conservation District provide advice and assistance in keeping the farmstead safe, while at the same time maximizing convenience for the producer.

So, what risks may be present on the farmstead? And what are the easy, quick fixes that can make an operation even more efficient? Currently, a major point of emphasis discussed by MAEAP is fueling facilities. What about a fueling facility could pose as a threat to the environment, and to your health? The answer has everything to do with groundwater, and there are solutions in place to reduce risk, ultimately leading to better long term health for all potentially affected.

As hard as it may be to believe, the smallest leak from fuel or oil can lead to major contamination. The process is simple; as a leak hits the ground, a portion of it works its way down the soil profile. Not all components of fuel are easily mixable with water because of their lighter weight, while other components are water soluble, which means those particles can easily bond to water.  Once fuel remnants enter the water table, they may contaminate wells, and can potentially travel through groundwater and seep into surface water.

Fuel storage on the farm is very common here in Cass County. While it does pose potential risk to groundwater health, proper management is the best tool to minimize potential liability.  Standards and compliance measures are put in place by the Department of Environmental Quality to keep the farmstead safe with the intention of maximizing convenience. By placing a concrete pad below fuel tanks and on the refueling area for equipment, the potential for risk is reduced greatly.

To learn more about the rules for fuel storage and handling, MAEAP verifications, and other best management practices for farmsteads contact the Cass County MAEAP technician, Erez Brandvain at 269-445-8641 ext 5 or stop in our office at 1127 E. State Street, Cassopolis, MI 49031 to discuss in more detail your farm’s situation.