Introduction: Air from animal feeding operations (AFOs) has been shown to transport numerous contaminants of public health concern. While federal statutes like the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) generally require that facilities report hazardous releases, AFOs have been exempted from most of these requirements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). We assessed the availability of information about AFO airborne hazardous releases following these exemptions. Methods: We submitted public records requests to 7 states overlapping with or adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay watershed for reports of hazardous releases made by AFOs under EPCRA. From the records received, we calculated the proportion of AFOs in each state for which ≥1 reports were available. We also determined the availability of specific types of information required under EPCRA. The numbers of AFOs permitted under the Clean Water Act (CWA) or analogous state laws, as determined from permitting databases obtained from states, were used as denominators. Results: We received both EPCRA reports and permitting databases from 4 of 7 states. Across these 4 states, the mean proportion of AFOs for which ≥1 EPCRA reports were available was 15% (range: 2-33%). The mean proportions of AFOs for which the name or identity of the substance released, ≥1 estimates of quantity released, and information about nearby population density and sensitive populations were available were 15% (range: 2-33%), 8% (range: 0-22%), and 14% (range: 2-8%), respectively. Discussion: These results suggest that information about the airborne hazardous releases of a large majority of AFOs is not available under federal law in the states that we investigated. While the results cannot be attributed to specific factors by this method, attention to multiple factors, including revision of the EPA's exemptions, may increase the availability of information relevant to the health of populations living or working near AFOs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)