Sunday, November 15, 2015

Processing of Manure on the farm? It is here, it is now!

Time and time again I have heard from the local Kewaunee County environmentalists, “it will be years and years before we have efficient manure processing technology that will make any difference in our County.”  Well, I am happy to report that, once again, they are incorrect.  It won’t be years before our local CAFOs are running fully integrated manure processing systems that can concentrate nutrients and remove up to 65% of the water.

On November 5th, a number of Kewaunee County Board Supervisors attended a tour of Digested Organics (DO) fully integrated manure processing installation at Majestic Crossing Dairy in Sheboygan Falls.  Supervisors, Bob Weidner, Tom Romdenne, Ron Paider, Ron Heuer and John Mastilar, were among a group of about 30 people to take a tour of this new manure processing system. Joining them were other guests from around the State including Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel and his Section Chief Sara Walling, representatives from 4 counties as well as numerous dairies including several Kewaunee County CAFOs (Ducats, Pagel's and Ebert’s). 

Digested Organics began building the Majestic Crossing IMMS in late July and it is now running. The Majestic Crossing Dairy Integrated Manure Management System (IMMS) is designed to process 20,000 gallons of raw manure per day -this installation  sized for the dairies 650 cows. The system has an integrated high efficiency digester (90% organic solids conversion to biogas and approx. 70% methane content) combined with a nutrient concentration/water reclamation system that takes the digestate from the digester and concentrates the key nutrients into roughly 35% of the volume, reclaiming the balance of 65% as reusable water.

While the digester is still under construction (expected to producing biogas bay the end of the month), we witnessed their system process raw manure, pressed through 2 screw presses. During the tour, DO processed this effluent, which is even more difficult to process than digestate with ease, producing concentrate from the effluent and water that was drinkable!

After 2 successful pilot programs in Michigan and Wisconsin, the IMMS was officially launched during this years World Dairy Expo week. It is simple, highly automated and designed to operate virtually round the clock. Modular and scalable, DO’s COO Chris Maloney says DO based its design philosophy on improving operational optionality and flexibility, reducing volume in hauling and spreading and lowering those costs. He further stated that DO focuses it's philosophy around the 3 cornerstones in manure management; 1)Efficient harvesting of the energy, 2) Separating and concentrating the nutrients for crops and 3) Reclaiming the water with high enough quality for the animals to drink, suitable (and permitable) for discharge into a nearby waterway) and/or used for flushing, washing or cooling on the farm. 

So here is how it works.  Manure is scraped in to a pit and then pumped to screw presses where the coarse solids are separated and dropped into a retaining area. Currently, Majestic Crossing is land applying the solids but may decide to dry them and reused as bedding in the future. The liquid effluent from the presses is then processed by DO’s proprietary BioMicronizer™ Solids Disintegration System.  Fine solids are “exploded” through a high pressure device, creating a homogeneous feedstock with a dramatic increase in surface area and reduced particle size—the ideal combination for faster anaerobic digestion.  This effluent is also dosed with a custom-formulated additive called BioSupport™, which provides trace minerals and bio-activators that accelerate the digestion process.  The disintegrated liquids then enter the BioEliminator™, a patent-pending digester that utilizes internal bio-media to house and retain microbes for faster digestion and cleaner biogas.  The digester is 100,000 gallons (5-day residence time) and runs year round at a constant 100°F.  After the BioEliminator, the digested manure (digestate) goes through a Nutrient Concentration & Water Reclamation System™ (NCWR) to produce concentrated liquid fertilizer and clean water for reuse or discharge.  This patent-pending system utilizes advanced ultrafiltration (UF) and reverse osmosis (RO) technologies, along with a unique combination of polishing steps, to produce high quality water for reuse.
So, how clean is the water coming out of this system?  Very clean and we all drank it, in fact, Secretary of Agriculture Ben Brancel was one of the first to line up for a drink!

From L to R in the background, Supervisor John Mastilar, Chris Maloney, Digested Organics COO, Secretary Ben Brancel and Bobby Levine, CEO of Digested Organics.

So, the metrics that DO represented to us at last winters board meeting are being met today at Majestic Crossing Dairy. 65% water recovery and clean enough that it can be discharged.  Think of what this could mean to our county.  We have in excess of 600 million gallons of liquid manure in our Kewaunee. What if we could process 400 million gallons of that manure and remove 65% of the water before it is transported to the fields for application? That would be the equivalent of approximately 48,000 tanker truck loads that would not have to run down the highways and a reduction of 260 million gallons of liquid that would not go on the fields.  

This can be achieved and the technology exists today! Our farmers understand that it is imperative we reduce the number of gallons of liquid manure going out on our fields. The time for action is now…and, this can be done in fairly short order, it will not take years.  

Stand by, more information to come soon..............................

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Kewaunee County’s Library Dilemma

I have researched on our library situation in the county and following are my thoughts and possible approaches to dealing with this issue. 

Kewaunee County does not have a consolidated library system.  Therefore according to WI Statute 43.12, we are subject to receiving invoices from libraries in those counties who are adjacent to Kewaunee County who provide library services to our residents. 

The Algoma Library System does provide a service to the residents of Luxemburg.  However, the city of Luxemburg does not have a library.  Many of residents of Luxemburg and those people residing in the western part of our county, as a convenience, go to the Brown County system to get their reading and entertainment material.  Those circulations represent the vast majority of the total circulation provided by the Brown County System for our residents.  Also, circulation at the Denmark High School for Kewaunee County residents who attend that school are counted in the circulation. 
In as much as WI Statute 43.12 has been around since 1995, Brown County could have billed Kewaunee County for services they provided to Kewaunee County residents much earlier.  It wasn’t until 2013, that Kewaunee County received their first bill from Brown County Library system.  So, as could be imagined, when we received our first bill in 2013, it came as a big unwelcome surprise.

We pay both Manitowoc and Brown County for services.  Manitowoc is a couple of thousand a year, however Brown County is another story.  We have many Kewaunee County residents who are using the Brown County System and therefore we receive a sizable bill from Brown County each year.  We receive a billing that has a lag time of two years, and for the past 3 years, we have paid the Brown County Library System the following payments;
$68,404 fee for circulation in 2011 paid in 2013
$61,783 fee for circulation in 2012 paid in 2014
$53,244 fee for circulation in 2013 paid in 2015
$54,970 estimated fee for circulation in 2014, payable in 2016 (Budgeted number, actual TBD)

So, in four years we will have paid $238,401 for circulation to Kewaunee County residents.  So the question begs itself, what are the options for Kewaunee County projecting out over the next 10 years we will have paid well over $600,000 for those services.  Well, the options are:
A.)   Have the State change the law
B.)    Form a Consolidated Library System in Kewaunee County
C.)    Continue paying Brown and Manitowoc Counties as called for in WI Statute 43.12  

Option A - Looking into changing the law.  43.12 is comprised of 7 paragraphs that deal with how counties are billed and how payment occurs.  It seemed reasonable to add a paragraph that would read
as follows;   paragraph 8 --- If a county does not maintain a consolidated public library and wishes not to incur payments to an adjacent county's consolidated public library for their residents loaning books from that consolidate public library, will, by means of a county board referendum, be required to notify those adjacent county's consolidated library systems to invoice any resident from their county directly for any service(s) provided to that resident.

This would not be legally acceptable as there is an 1871 law on the books that provides that each and every resident of Wisconsin is entitled to receiving “free” access to library services.  So option A is not viable.

Option B - Could Kewaunee County form their own consolidated library system?  The answer is yes, however unless another branch were to open in Luxemburg the problem would still exist.  Currently, the Algoma Library spends about $290K per year to provide library services, while Kewaunee spends about $240K per year.  Based on those numbers, one could assume that to open a branch in Luxemburg, it would cost a minimum of $200K to $225K a year.  So a total consolidated library could run the county a total of $750K a year for the three libraries.  Assume Algoma, Kewaunee and Luxemburg cumulatively contribute a combined $440K.  That would leave the county paying $300K per year for an integrated consolidated service.  This option would cost the county much more than we are currently paying Brown County for their services and therefore is not likely a feasible option.

Option C – Continue as we are with libraries in Algoma and Kewaunee with continued payment to the Brown County Library System.  Yes we are paying about $57K per year, but that is more palatable than paying a potential $300K per year.

Another consideration that could be visited would be; is the village of Luxemburg willing to invest in a Library that would take a large percentage of the circulation away from Brown County?  That is a village decision.  Costs to the village and county would be higher overall.  But would the cost be well worth the service for the residents?  

For the moment the only conclusion I can draw is that we are better off staying with the billing from Brown County.  In other words, no change.  But I, and I am sure, the Board is open to any and all recommendations.