Project to monitor air quality behind schedule
OCEAN CITY, Md. — Delmarva Poultry Inc.’s project to monitor ambient air quality near chicken farms is off to a slow start, Holly Porter, DPI’s executive director, said on Oct. 9.
She addressed the National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing, and Live Production at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel.
The air quality monitoring project, a partnership among DPI, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment Inc., seeks “to consider ways we could be proactive at taking a look at air monitoring and whether or not there really are any issues or concerns for public health,” Porter said.
She said she had hoped to report on the placement of the new monitoring stations at the conference, “but unfortunately, that is not the case. We have had delays.
“It has been a learning experience and a lot of challenges as we have moved through this process.”
She added that working in a rural environment was “very new” to MDE which has more experience with monitoring in urban and suburban areas where there is more publicly owned land for siting.
She said, however, they are close to identifying monitoring locations. “Our goal now is to have those two new sites located before the end of the year.”
The project is a response to efforts of the Maryland legislature considering the Community Healthy Air Act. If passed, the law would have enabled a study of air emissions from CAFO farms and allow MDE to enforce emissions standards, Porter said.
She noted air quality research has been done by the University of Georgia, the University of Delaware and Penn State, but there are very few ambient air quality monitoring stations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The proposed one-year project would involve four monitoring stations — two on the Lower Shore and two existing stations in Baltimore City and at the Horn Point Laboratory in Dorchester County.
The stations would monitor for the continuous use of ammonia and “particulate matter 2.5 and particulate matter 10 which often coincide with public health issues — asthma, poor air quality,” Porter said.
Problems arose with site location for the two new stations.
One was to have been upwind of a poultry farm and one downwind, with an effort to assure the sites were representative of poultry operations on the Lower Shore, Porter said. “We wanted to make sure it abided by all EPA standards and criteria,” she said.
DPI held a public information meeting in April to gather input and “be very transparent” in site location discussions.
She reminded conference attendees, “This is not a comprehensive study. It is a sampling — gathering data, setting the baseline, comparing the four data points “to see whether or not there really is . . . a public health issue.”
She acknowledged the outcome of the studies is unknown. “Can I say there are no public health issues? No. I don’t think anybody can say that, but we do have a really good feeling that we really just don’t see it. But we also don’t know. We don’t have the data. We don’t have the information. We don’t have these ambient air monitors out there.
“Personally, just like you, I also live in the community. I live in a county that has a lot of chicken farms around me. Why wouldn’t we want to know what the air [quality] is in our area?
“If there are issues, if there are concerns, then we’ll look at those issues. …And [at] what we as an industry will do about it.
“No matter what the challenges are, agriculture and the chicken industry has always stepped up to be able to address anything that has come in front of us,” she said.
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