EPA proceeding with poultry house air emission studies

The U.S. EPA recently kicked off its 2.5-year long, $14.6 million nationwide study of air emissions from animal feeding operations (AFOs).


Researcher Al Heber inspects ventilation fans

The "National Air Emission Monitoring Study" will attempt to determine whether or not confinement animal agriculture operations violate air emissions standards which were established for industrial installations. Levels of hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and ammonia, among other chemicals, released from poultry and livestock facilities will be measured. Measurements are under way in locations throughout the country and by midsummer will be under way at all 24 study sites in nine states.

"This study will give us a wealth of much-needed scientific information about livestock-generated air pollution," said Al Heber, the Purdue professor of agricultural and biological engineering who leads the study. "There has never been a study this comprehensive or long-term."

In addition to Purdue University, the seven other universities participating in the study are the University of California-Davis, Cornell University, Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, Texas A&M University and Washington State University.
EPA concluded in the late 1990s that it did not have sufficient air emissions data for AFOs, which made it difficult to determine the compliance status of AFOs with existing air emissions requirements. EPA began discussions with AFO owners in 2001.

Ultimately, EPA developed consent agreements with some portions of animal agriculture. These agreements established a framework for farmers to participate in a monitoring study. Over 2600 agreements were signed, representing approximately 14,000 swine, dairy, egg-laying and broiler chicken (meat-bird) farms. The turkey industry is not participating in the research and most of the broiler industry chose not to participate.

"There has never been an agricultural air emissions study this comprehensive or long term," according to Dr. 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, AFOs contributed to a fund to pay for the monitoring study. The study is being conducted by Purdue University and its partners. EPA intends to use the data from the monitoring study to develop an improved method for estimating emissions from individual AFOs.

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