Letter: Disappointed Manure Rules Have Stalled

Regarding the Village of Wellington and horse manure regulations, in June of this year I was glad to hear that Wellington was considering certain regulations regarding the storage of horse manure/bedding.

About 15 years ago, a colleague and I, acting on behalf of the State of Florida Environmental Secretariat, were invited to tour several equestrian facilities in Wellington. It was a rainy day, and as I passed a manure/bedding storage bin and noted the coffee-colored extract running out of the bottom of the bin and directly into a storm drain and adjacent canal, I remember my stern suggestion, namely, “Put a lid on it!” This was and is such a no-brainer that it now boggles my mind to have now learned that Wellington’s animal waste ordinance failed and that Vice Mayor Howard Coates asked, “Isn’t that a bit of overkill?” to require a lid, even as simple as a tarp, plus storage 100 feet from a surface water body.

Wellington was taken to task for the phosphorous-based pollution emanating from Basin B by the South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That led to some good best management practices (BMPs) such as fertilizers only with a middle number (P) of zero.

I have studied local nutrient pollution and algal blooms for over two decades and have had graduate students even do master’s projects on the extractability of phosphorous (P) from fresh and aged horse manure. Those findings were presented at two separate meetings (2004, 2007) of the Florida Academy of Science. Horse manure collected from numerous sites in Wellington and Loxahatchee Groves, my home town, averaged 42.7 mg P/gram dry weight of manure, and of that total P, 55 percent was readily extractable with water and mild bicarbonate solution, the same conditions found locally with rain and abundant limestone.

Getting away from the scientific weights and measures, out of the 45 to 60 pounds of wet weight manure, an average of  0.13 pounds (2.1 ounces) of phosphorous is produced and available to pollute your ponds and canals and to be exported to the Everglades. Now, do the math: Multiply that seemingly small amount of P by the huge number of horses in our area and by 365 days per year. Phosphorous enrichment favors cyanobacteria (a.k.a. blue-green algae), and it is only a matter of time, given attitudes such as Vice Mayor Coates’, before one or more of the cyanobacterial blooms is of the toxic variety. Yes, toxic to humans — Google it! I thank you for your time and, hopefully, consideration of the environment and our future.

Dr. J. William Louda
Loxahatchee Groves

Editor’s note: Dr. Louda is a senior scientist with the Environmental Sciences Program at Florida Atlantic University.


  1. Doctor I have a few questions, given you have done extensive manure research. You seem to be suggesting that your anecdotal observation 15 years ago in the one instance you mentioned would cause a cyanobacterial blooms of the toxic variety?

    Do you know now if a cyanobacterial blooms of the toxic variety exists now in the canal at the same location as the bin you observed?

    Shouldn’t you have determined if your observation of 15 years ago had any relevance to the issue before you used that instance as an example of bad management practices?

    Did you happen to notice any blue-green algae or cyanobacterial blooms of the toxic variety in the canal where the coffee collared extract ran into the canal at the time you made the observation 15 years ago?

    If not why not?

    If so than were there any other point sources that you observed that might have accounted for the existence of blue-green algae or cyanobacterial blooms of the toxic variety?

    Did you take a sample of the water in the canal before and after you saw the coffee extract running into the canal?

    If not why not?

    After all are you not suggesting that this particular manure big would cause environmental damage of some kind?

    Do you happen to know how many manure bins in Wellington are located near canals?

    How many of them are releasing a coffee colored extract into the canals? How many are not releasing the coffee extract?

    Have you done a cost/benefit analysis of complying with the new manure regulations?

    If not why not?

    In your opinion should there be a cost/benefit analysis associated with environmental regulations?

    If so, what is the proper balance?

    Assume that in a given case the regulation would destroy 50% of the equestrian economy in Wellington. In your opinion should the regulation be enacted in order to reduce the quantity of phosphorous or other plant nutrients in order to prevent blue-green algae or cyanobacterial blooms of the toxic variety?

    I would be pleased to read your response.

  2. Covers are required.

    If a manure bin does not leech, then why the 100′ setback?

    If it does not leech, then it can be located 10 inches fom a water body.

    I could make it through only the first two paragraphs of Louda’s pompous missive.

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