Good clean air is important to all of us. We presume that we can step outside our dwelling, no matter owned or rented, and breathe air which will keep us not only alive, but healthy. However, we cannot always be assured that will happen. The air over our dwelling at any point in time does not stay put. How that air and its accompanying particulates and gases travels is dependent on many variables including temperature, humidity, the weight of the molecules and air currents to mention a few.

People react to odors in the air differently. To one person the smell of burning leaves may remind him of raking and burning leaves with grandpa and thus evokes a positive memory. To others with allergies, asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) the smoke from the burning leaves is not only unpleasant, but truly unhealthy.
The issue of air quality and odors around large animal feeding operations and the fields on which the resulting manure is spread is very important to our state. We would all like this to be a “healthy state.” It is particularly important to those who live, work, go to school or worship near any facility that emits odors and gases which may affect us daily or over the years.

In a 2004 – 2006 the Iowa DNR conducted an air quality study at animal feeding operations sites in Iowa. The choice of sites was based many times on complaints of those near the facility. {(footnote 1) Results of the Iowa DNR Odor Study Iowa DNR Ambient Air Monitoring Group January 2006)} This points out that concerns were present over ten years ago and perhaps longer and that cases were being handled on a case by case basis. Today there are many more animal feeding facilities, especially swine facilities. (could someone find out if the DNR is still receiving complaints on air quality?)

Odorous gases of primary concern include hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and volatile organic compounds. {(footnote 2) National Center for Manure and Animal Waste Management White Papers Summary Odor Mitigation for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation.} Greenhouse gases have been added as a concern.

Is there a middle ground for those who wish and need to avoid unhealthy air and those who wish to locate an animal feeding facility and manure application fields close to neighbors, businesses, school and churches? The Master Matrix gives some separation distances. Are these adequate? Should the separation distances be a requirement instead of a choice for obtaining points?

In July of 2014 Iowa State University looked at current and future research which may have positive applications for future odor and air quality issues. Among those mentioned are 1) a first-of-its-kind study by ISU to quantify ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions from a 4,300 sow breeding, gestation and farrowing facility in central Iowa 2) an ISU study of how anaerobic digestion and energy generation may influence odor and undigested manure 3) development of two education modules on the use of Biofilters  and their construction. Iowa State has also developed the Air Management Practice Assessment Tool (AMPAT) as an online resource that provides an objective overview of mitigation practices best suited to address odor, emissions and dust at Iowa livestock operations. {(footnote 3 Selected Current ISU Livestock Odor and Air Quality Research and Extension)} Note: for more information on Biofilters see Biofilters for Odor and Air Pollution Mitigation in Animal Agriculture November 2011 USDA & National institute of Food and Agriculture. This research may lead to improvements which can bring both sides to a closer understanding of our responsibilities to honor the right of clean air for everyone and the right for confinements and manure management fields to locate in agricultural areas which are also neighborhoods.

Would there be a role for the state governments to give tax credits for implementation of practices which these studies might recommend? Can agencies and interested groups apply for grant monies to establish pilot projects putting such practices into action? What responsibilities does the owner/developer of a potential facility have to instigate preventative measures to mitigate odorous gases and particulates which may harm others?

How can we be Partners for the Future as far as the quality of our air in our county?