EPA studying air quality around large livestock farms

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WASHINGTON – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced the beginning of the first-ever nationwide study of air emissions from poultry, dairy and swine animal feeding operations.
“Farmers are not only the stewards of the land, they are vital partners in the Bush administration’s efforts to accelerate the pace of environmental progress, while growing our nation’s economy,” said EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson.
With EPA oversight, researchers from eight universities will take part in the 21/2-year, $14.6 million study to measure levels of hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, ammonia, nitrous oxide, volatile organic compounds and other gases from livestock facilities.
The research officially began June 14 at 24 sites in nine states.
Insufficient data. EPA concluded in the late 1990s that it did not have sufficient air emissions data for animal feeding operations, which made it difficult to determine the compliance status of these operations with existing air emissions requirements.
EPA began discussions with owners in 2001.
Ultimately, EPA developed an innovative and voluntary consent agreement with the animal feeding operation industry. This agreement established a framework for farmers to participate in a monitoring study.
Over 2,600 agreements were signed, representing approximately 14,000 swine, dairy, egg-laying and broiler chicken (meat-bird) farms (an animal feeding operation can include more than one farm).
“There has never been an agricultural air emissions study this comprehensive or long term,” according to Al Heber of Purdue University, the lead scientist for the study.
“We don’t know enough about what is being emitted into the atmosphere. This study will give the EPA the data it needs to make science-based decisions.”
As part of the consent agreement, animal feeding operations contributed to a fund to pay for the monitoring study. The study is being conducted by Purdue University and its partners.
Improved methods. EPA intends to use the data from the monitoring study to develop an improved method for estimating emissions from individual animal feeding operations.
EPA believes this innovative agreement will bring farms into compliance more quickly than could have been accomplished through traditional, case-by-case enforcement.
The eight universities participating in the study are: Purdue University; University of California-Davis; Cornell University; Iowa State University; University of Minnesota; North Carolina State University; Texas A&M University; and Washington State University.

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