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Asbestos, The 411

In the Know

Asbestos became popular with manufactures for its physical properties between 1900-1970. The large draw of asbestos was its abilities in sound absorption, strength, and most common was its resistance to fire and heat. Asbestos manufacturing has been phased out, banned, or overly restricted since the 1990s.

Common Locations

Homes dating back before 1980 were built with products which may contain asbestos. These products include floor tile, ceiling tiles, roof shingles and flashing, exterior siding, and insulation (around boilers, pipes, and duct work). In farm buildings it is in joint compound and caulking. With any remodel it may be best to test for asbestos to prevent any harmful exposure.

Health Effects

The length of exposure to asbestos is the concerning factor most doctors state. When inhaled, asbestos’s glass like fibers scratch the interior of your lungs causing scarring and stiffening. One or two exposures yield no worry, but it is exposure from 10-40 years that leads to lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Testing and Abatement

Most general contractors will not get involved for liability reasons if asbestos is a potential threat. When looking into testing and removal some company’s won’t do both, so be knowledgeable of this. It is a must to see all records and documentations of the asbestos levels in your house.

Check to be sure any professional you hire meets any licensing requirements for your state or municipality.

Asbestos abatement (removal) has an extensive set up procedure. What is required in the removal is fully sealing off the room with multiple layers of plastic, workers have to walk through a wash off station upon entering and exiting the sealed area, respirators are to be worn, all materials wetted down to control dust and particle movement. Cost of abatement can vary depending on the scope of the work.

~ Jordan Crusing, Junior Technician

On-Farm Innovation

I love the innovation of farmers!  We all know that farmers are hard workers, but the ingenuity and invention to solve any problem is really amazing to see in person.  If you ever been to the machine shed on the farm, you’ll see that every bit and piece has value and purpose.  A good farmer lets nothing go to waste and every task they do is calculated and efficient – there is a lot to do on the farm every day and being a great farm manager is essential. It’s easy to picture innovation in the machine shed with the repairs made to keep equipment running.

portion of what use to be my grandparent’s dairy farm, machine shed in top left corner

On the other side of the coin though, is the business side where the farmer is just as innovative.  Becoming dealers for seeds (or other products), pooling resources together with neighbors to ensure that everyone has access to equipment or services at a fair price, or even working to create a new market for their product when needed. 

I even appreciate seeing opportunities, like the “Making More From Milk” event and new on-farm technologies, that provide support and encouragement to farmers who are developing and maintaining healthy agricultural businesses, which also preserve the ability to continue in the tradition of on-farm innovation.

~ Kelly Jacobs, Senior Environmental Scientist

Are You Ready for your Next Inspection?

On-site inspections by agencies like the County, DNR, MPCA or EPA can happen at any time, especially close to your permit renewal date. A little preparation can help that surprise inspection at your farm go much smoother.

This article from Manure Manager Magazine gives some good recommendations: on questions to ask your inspector, information that may (or may not) be available to them, and some other points to help you before, during, and after any inspection.

Even if you’ve never worked with Williams Engineering Services or we’ve never visited your farm before, Williams Engineering Services can help your facility work through inspection and compliance at any stage in the process. It’s a small world and you might be amazed by what we already know about your farm.

We do recommend having an engineering consultant on-site during the farm’s on-site compliance inspection, whenever possible, in order to:

  1. Demonstrate your ability to provide both an immediate and follow-up response to items presented by the inspector,
  2. Illustrate your commitment to the quality of your farm and how it is presented, and
  3. Show that you take the inspection of your farm very seriously.

Having an experienced consultant on-site during the inspection can help you better react to inspector questions and address concerns before they become a written violation. Having an engineer at your side can also keep the inspector accountable so that the discussed topics and issues are limited to only those items that are relevant and enforceable. The last thing a farmer wants are inspection notes with incorrect information (or even false allegations about the farm) written into a violation letter that becomes public information.

Our professional staff at Williams Engineering Services have experience being  inspectors. We have reviewed hundreds of facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and are familiar with the current rules and regulations that apply to your farm now and in the future. We have years of experience working with and being those government officials at all levels and can help you better understand how to navigate governmental policies.

At Williams Engineering Services, we will do our best to work with you at any time day or night, including inspection time, on the farm. Give us a call today at 715-829-3231 and we’d be happy to help you start preparing for your next inspection (or reacting to the letter if that is where you are).

~ Kelly Jacobs, Senior Environmental Scientist

Calculating…Farming Smarter

You know you work for an engineering firm when you start calculating stuff for fun!

Our water fountain calculates how many water bottles we save by using it instead of buying a bottle of water. The digital display is 8 numbers long, so eventually we could ‘max out the display’.

The post it reads: “At our current rate of saving bottles, we are on pace to max out the display (ie. 99,999,999 bottles) by the year 41,623.”

Our detail guy Jeff helped point out that we don’t have to worry about running out of space on our drinking fountain display.  How cool is it that we can track this kind of thing and make projections using known data for our specific location.

This example really is kind of a silly calculation; but, on farms there are always times when you can use data to make calculations and projections that help you ensure efficiency, compile reports, plan for replacements, and even ensure a sustainable operation over the long term. 

Why wouldn’t you want to get a leg up by farming smarter? 

~ Kelly Jacobs, Senior Environmental Scientist

Can Your Dairy Farm Benefit From Market Trends?

Markets can drive the decisions you make on your farm.  This is especially true in dairy farming… even if you reduce your input costs, how do you know that you can sell your product for a fair price? 

Understanding that dairy product export markets can vary depending on the policies and trade agreements of the moment, you might be looking at options to sustain a profitable farm right in your community.

Many farming organizations have recently re-affirmed the need to sustain a viable dairy economy in our country with phrases like “Dairy Supply Management” frequently being discussed in the industry.  Efforts like the Dairy Together initiative are also encouraging a continued discussion in order to ensure that dairy farms remain a vital part of our rural communities.

Whether adding cows to your farm is part of your story or not, a little ingenuity and invention can help create a vision for your farm which will allow you to sustain a thriving agricultural business.

Williams Engineering Services, LLC (WES) has the specialized expertise you need so that your farm can prepare for and benefit from the anticipated dairy market improvements that we’re already starting to hear about. By working together with your team and by utilizing your unique management approach, WES can help develop a plan and design concept customized for your specific site so that your dairy farm can achieve continued success in your community for many years to come.

Give Williams Engineering Services a call at 715-286-5726 to discuss the possibilities for your dairy farm in Wisconsin or Minnesota.  

~ Kelly Jacobs, Senior Environmental Scientist

Dangerous Weather for Farmers

Driving to work today, it almost looked like fog — until I saw smoke go up…and then sideways. This is a weather inversion, and it can be deadly for farmers.

If farmers see this kind of thing happening, it’s a really bad day to agitate their manure ponds.  I know that I could smell the farm and wood smoke a little stronger in Augusta as I was walking into the office this morning (which makes sense cause all that stuff is trapped close to the surface).

So I guess you can actually see air quality in this case… I’ve often seen the Twin Cities issue Air Quality alerts on days like today.

Your science lesson for today:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inversion_(meteorology)

While it’s fascinating to see a weather inversion, I hope that our farmers stay safe today.

Kelly Jacobs, Senior Environmental Scientist

 

Responsibility

When you’re a farmer, everything but the weather is your responsibility. You’re in charge of the cows, the barn, getting the chickens out of bed.

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Ok, so not the chickens.

Still, when the storm hits, you don’t get to say — well, my job starts at 8 a.m., so I’ll get to it then…you have to get up now and take care of things. It’s your job.

At my job, my responsibility covers a lot of things that might not seem to go together. Telling stories about what we do, encouraging our staff, making sure the numbers add up right. Sometimes in the day-to-day, it can be easy to miss what the real target is — why I go to work each day.

That’s why I love that one of the things I do is keep our ‘reason why’ in sight.

Why we do what we do…

It’s our responsibility to help our farmers improve their farms. It’s our responsibility to smooth the way, so the government stuff has all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. It’s our responsibility (and our privilege) to help you build a farm to pass down to your children.

Some heavy responsibility — but it feels great.