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EPA Bid to Exempt Farms from Waste Emission Reports Draws Critics

Mobile, AL – Poultry growers use fans and other methods to deal with ammonia, which is generated by chicken waste and in extreme concentrations can blind or kill the flock as well as cause health problems for those entering the chicken house.

The "nose test" works for most growers who can walk into a poultry house and with a sniff determine if the ammonia level is too high and immediately switch on a fan. But is anyone outside the chicken house threatened when the noxious fumes escape into the air?

Farm groups, including the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the poultry industry, don't think so. But environmentalists and others supporting air quality in farm communities say the fumes need to be monitored -- and they are objecting to a proposal to end such monitoring.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule from the mid-1980s requires that animal-waste emissions such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide be reported to the government when they reach a certain level.

The rule is now getting a lot more attention. After it drew enforcement actions by the federal agency and the courts in the last few years, EPA proposed exempting farms from reporting hazardous emissions from poultry and livestock waste.

Responding to the EPA proposal, Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell of New York told the agency that the exemption, if granted, will make it harder for emergency responders who keep track of emissions to protect communities.

EPA's public comment period for the proposed change ended March 27 and the agency received hundreds of responses. It's unclear when EPA will rule on the proposed change.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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