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Stillaguamish Tribe receives $1 million grant


Photo courtesy of the Stillaguamish Tribe

Stillaguamish Tribe's environmental manager Pat Stevenson outside of the Tribe's Natural Resources Department.

The Stillaguamish Tribe received a national $1 million grant this month to research the applicability of a machine that could process dairy water to improve stream quality.

The Tribe was the lone Washington state recipient of the Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The technology the Tribe is working with would process farm water that is contaminated with fecal matter and turn it into water and provide fertilizer as well. The water would be clean enough for an animal to drink, or could be used for other purposes.

"It's a project we've been working on for a few years," said Pat Stevenson, environmental manager for the Stillaguamish Tribe.

They started with a grant from the Department of Ecology in 2013, and through that work found the Sedro-Wooley business Janicki Bioenergy, which produces it's "Omni-Processor" to clean human waste out of water from Third World countries.

"We found these devices that they use in Africa to treat water with human waste in it," said Stevenson.

"We approached Janicki and asked if they would be able to build one that would work on animal waste," he said. "They finally got back to us about a year later saying they thought it would be possible."

The Tribe's grant research will be to see if the machine can work and if it does improve water quality.

"The Stillaguamish Tribe is seeing if they can transport that concept for a trial run on dairy farms," said Bonda Habets, Washington state resource conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers can currently receive funds for a variety of projects that reduce their impact on the environment.

If the Stillaguamish Tribe can demonstrate that the dairy water processors are effective, those machines could be added to the list giving easy access to the technology for many farmers, said Stevenson.

Currently, water with dairy manure in it is often kept in lagoons, which can get into streams.

Stevenson said that shellfish are hurt the most because of bacteria from the manure.

"They're filter feeders, so they just filter out all of the material in the water," he said.

However, too much bacteria and manure will make the water less habitable for all the animals there in general.

"It contributes to poor water conditions in general which hurts the fish," said Stevenson.

Fish are important for a lot of tribes around the state and nation.

"Washington has a lot of areas with a lot of salmon, which is an endangered species," said Habets.

"There are 33 federally recognized tribes in the state and many rely on salmon for food," she said.

Many tribes are downstream in watersheds, she said, so they receive a good deal of pollutants from industrial, urban and other lands.

"The Stillaguamish Tribe is next to an area with a lot of dairy farmland, and that land doesn't have many other land applications," said Habets, so cleaning water from dairy farms would be beneficial to them.

She said that the group effort between the Stillaguamish Tribe, Janicki Bioenergy and other partners "makes it a richer project."

"This could be a win-win-win for the tribe, agriculture interests and the salmon," she said.

Stillaguamish officials hope to start fabrication of the processor in August and install it in a Stanwood farm in May or June of next year.

The machine will be the first one built anywhere.


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