With autumn under way, Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) says it’s time for Gippsland’s dairy farmers to pay special attention to pumps and pipes, as they empty their effluent ponds for annual maintenance.
EPA Gippsland Regional Manager Stephen Lansdell says EPA’s officers are finding too many broken sump pumps and leaky pipelines during farm inspections.
“Both the Environment Protection Act 1970 and common sense require that dairy effluent stays on the farm and out of channels, creeks and rivers. It is a valuable fertiliser, but can be a damaging pollutant,” Mr Lansdell said.
“An overflowing pond sends nutrients into waterways, reducing oxygen levels, killing aquatic life, encouraging toxic algae and creating the danger of disease,” he said.
“Dairy farmers can prevent effluent ponds from overflowing by de-sludging, removing vegetation, keeping pumps and pipes in good working order, and irrigating the water component to pasture when the weather is right.”
“Properly set to work as a fertiliser, dairy effluent can increase pasture production, so good dairy effluent management is a win for the farm as a business, and for the environment.”
Problems with dairy effluent management are too common. EPA officers who inspected 25 Gippsland dairy farms for effluent runoff in 2018, issued nine Pollution Abatement Notices (PANs), five fines and three official warnings.
PANs are legally enforceable instructions requiring maintenance or repairs to solve pollution problems by a set deadline, and the fine for non-compliance can go as high as $8,060.
“The fine isn’t the only liability, the neighbours won’t be happy if you set off an algal bloom in the water they are using for stock and irrigation,” he said.
EPA officers can follow an effluent spill back to its source, and will monitor progress on the work required by any Pollution Abatement Notice to make sure the job is done, to protect the local environment and neighbouring farms.
“EPA will issue fines for non-compliance, but supports farmers by providing advice and technical support. EPA also works with Agriculture Victoria and Dairy Australia to provide practical advice and resources, including free effluent testing programs.”
Guidelines on effective effluent management on dairy farms can be found by visiting
EPA urges people to report suspected pollution to the EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or at www.epa.vic.gov.au
Agriculture Victoria, Dairy Australia and dairy regional development programs such as GippsDairy have a range of tools that can assist farmers.
Agriculture Victoria’s local Dairy Extension Officer can provide free effluent testing and a health check of current effluent systems, as well as providing advice on the best use of the valuable nutrients and the storage capacity of your ponds based on cow number, water use in the dairy and rainfall.