Manure spill prevention and response

Custom manure applicators and farmers should take action to prevent manure spills, and have an emergency response plan in place.


Custom manure applicators and farmers should plan for potential manure spills from all manure storage facilities and equipment along the manure handling pathway. This includes preparing and posting an Emergency Manure Spill Action Plan at your business or farm, and having an emergency spill kit on hand.

Having an action plan will help you:

  • better ensure public safety
  • protect the environment
  • rapidly respond in an emergency situation
  • avoid unwanted consequences as a result of unplanned spill response

Start your action plan

You can use one of the following templates to create your action plan:

For commercial applicators

For farmers

Where to post it

Your plan should be readily available and understood by all employees and farm workers at your business or farm. Post copies of your plan and emergency phone numbers:

  • in all equipment and vehicles for quick reference when applying manure
  • near all telephones in the main office of the business or gathering area at your farm

If you have a mobile device, save a PDF version of the plan in your files. Did you know that the ManureTracker app has emergency information in it?

Take preventive steps

Preventative actions are the first step in an emergency action plan. These can include:

  • the use of technology or practices to prevent manure spills
  • routine inspection of storages and manure hauling equipment to ensure they remain in good operating condition
  • taking action to preserve and restore components before they fail to ensure they continue to operate in a reliable way

Preventive inspections

Conducting preventative inspections and maintenance can help reduce the likelihood of breakdowns and maintenance related problems. This will help avoid manure spills, protect the environment and human health while saving time and money.

Preventive inspections and maintenance can include:

  • have a staff member regularly check the transfer line for leaks
  • routinely check manure storages to ensure facility integrity and that the volume in the storage is below freeboard capacity
  • check manure application equipment to ensure it is operating properly and not at risk of failing (for example, check tires, axles, steering, brakes, hoses and fittings)

Other preventive measures

  • use road signs when hauling manure to notify others of the equipment on the road.
  • create a travel plan to avoid equipment meeting on the road, i.e., use one route to haul to the field and a different route to return to the storage. This may include a discussion with the local Municipality to temporarily designate the road as one-way. This way equipment could operate down the center of the road, reducing the risks associated with meeting vehicles and damage to soft shoulders.
  • train staff and family on what to do in the event of a spill
  • use auto or radio-controlled shutoff valves and pumps with a dragline systems

Emergency manure spill kit

As part of your action plan, you should have an emergency spill kit available to assist with control and cleanup of manure.

An emergency spill kit may include:

  • shovels
  • pails
  • line clamps
  • flags, safety triangles, flashers or flares
  • berm socks or bales
  • plywood to block culverts
  • fire extinguisher
  • first aid kit

Steps to spill response

Step 1

Assess the risk.

  • Ensure the area is safe to enter and that there are no injuries requiring emergency first aid or further medical attention.

Ensure human safety.

  • Call 911 immediately for all road incidents.
  • Beware of oncoming traffic and your own personal safety.
  • Put out flags, safety triangles or flares to warn oncoming traffic.
  • Conduct emergency first aid. Personal injuries take precedence.

Contact the NRCB’s 24-hour response line at 1-866-383-6722 to report all manure spills.

Step 2

Assess the extent of the spill.

  • Determine if there are any immediate risks to the public and the environment. Did the release:
    • happen on or adjacent to a roadway?
    • reach any surface water bodies, water well casings or other potentially sensitive areas?
    • happen on public property or cross a property line?
  • Take quick and effective action to minimize the impact.

Step 3

Control the source.

  • Stop manure application and pumps.
  • Close valves.
  • Separate pipes that will create an air gap, which will stop flow due to siphoning.
  • Transfer manure liquid to another basin, lagoon or tank.
  • Plug holes or shut off the water in case of a waterline break.

Step 4

Contain the spill.

  • Limit the area affected.
  • Work to get the appropriate equipment needed to build containment structures or to clean up the spill. This could include:
    • Building a containment dam out of soil or bales in field, ditch or stream.
    • Tilling the soil ahead of and perpendicular to the direction of the flow path to slow flow and increase infiltration.
    • Constructing a temporary holding basin down slope from the release.
    • plug or cover culvert.
    • If accessible, placing soil over the point of seepage.

Step 5

Report and notify.

Contact the NRCB’s 24-hour response line at 1-866-383-6722 to report all manure spills.

  • Contact the landowner or farmer and the NRCB response line in all instances – the NRCB will work with you to notify other agencies if required.
  • Contact the municipality and the RCMP – if the release happened on or adjacent to a roadway.
  • Prepare a summary report for all spills – even those not requiring notification – to document your actions. Keep it on file. Summary reports should include:
    • who was contacted (person’s name and working title)
    • photographs and documentation of the spill and clean-up process

Step 6

Clean up – assess and restore the affected area.

  • Collect spilled manure and spread on cropland, or return to storage.
  • Authorities may provide guidance on how to clean up spills on roadways, or those that have affected water bodies.
  • Restore damaged area.
  • Evaluate the situation and address any repairs to equipment or steps in the action plan that will help prevent future spills.

Contact 310-FARM

Hours: 8:15 am to 4:30 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276) (in Alberta)
Phone: 403-742-7901 (outside Alberta)
Email: [email protected]

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