On Wednesday, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) served 51 pork production facilities throughout Iowa, North Carolina and Oklahoma with notice of intent to sue, in accord with the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), “citing unreported releases of the hazardous pollutant ammonia.”
According to an HSUS statement, the production facilities are legally required to report the amounts of harmful contaminants released into the environment to the EPA and local emergency response teams, but the facilities in the notice didn’t report amounts of ammonia that exceeded 100 pounds in a 24 hour period.
Each of the named operations confines from 4,000 to more than 100,000 pigs, with the total number of animals at the 51 facilities adding up to more than 540,000 pigs. All of the facilities release more than 100 pounds and sometimes up to 10,000 pounds of ammonia into surrounding communities and the environment on a daily basis.
The facilities in question are owned by six separate companies, including Maschhoffs and Iowa Select.
While The HSUS recognizes there are farmers who are attentive to animal welfare and environmental issues, the letters sent today illustrate how some of the wealthiest pork-producing companies apparently refuse to comply with a critical federal law for public health protection.
The reporting rule went into effect in 2009, but there was reportedly a lot of confusion over it, with some states telling producers there were no reporting requirements, while one said it was a hoax.
“EPA did a poor job of telling producers about this and educating them about this and about how to determine if they meet a threshold that would require them to report,” said Dave Warner, a spokesman for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
Warner and others in the pork industry argue that there aren’t actually any emissions standards for livestock and poultry operations and that the equation used by the EPA is just a tool for producers to use.
The HSUS contends that facilities are required to report amounts of harmful contaminants and notes the adverse effects of factory farming, intensive confinement and gestation crates that result in the emission of hundreds of pounds of ammonia every day.
“These intensive pig confinement operations are a menace to the environment, to the community, and to the animals virtually immobilized in tiny gestation crates for nearly their entire lives,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “The National Pork Producers Council’s record on environmental degradation is just as sordid as its record on the systemic mistreatment of animals.”
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