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Over the past several years, the Cove Area Regional Digester Project has been studied to deal with numerous issues that face the Borough of Martinsburg and its surrounding communities that form an area known as Morrison's Cove, in Blair and Bedford Counties, Pennsylvania. This densely populated agricultural community is home to over 25,000 head of dairy animals and is located in the middle of the pristine Clover Creek Watershed. In recent times, many of the larger operations have converted to liquid manure application to dispose of the estimated 200 tons of manure produced daily within the Cove.

While most of the agricultural operations follow existing nutrient management plans, changing regulations have begun to impact manure disposal operations. Many fields within the Cove have been identified as exceeding maximum recommended limits for phosphorus. While these fields can possibly meet future nitrogen regulations, the long-term viability of complying with proposed phosphorus limits is extremely unlikely. At this time, no viable option exists for the existing agricultural operations, which range in size from 80 animals to in excess of 2,200 animals, to dispose of excess manure. This will force many operations to consider alternative implementation plans for their manure products, increasing costs.

Linked with the disposal of manure, the public water supply of the Cove consists of groundwater supply wells. Located in a karst geologic region, agricultural runoff has steadily increased nitrate pollution to the point that two of the four wells that supply Martinsburg Borough now require treatment as they exceed 10 mg/l (Federal/State Maximum for Nitrates in Potable Supplies). In addition, numerous private wells and water supplies have been negatively impacted by the runoff.

In light of these multiple environmental and economic problems, the Agriculture Today and Tomorrow Committee was formed to develop solutions and weigh their advantages and disadvantages. After several years of work, the concept, and now preliminary design, of the Cove Area Regional Digester has been completed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-01-01

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