Study: air quality at chicken houses on Lower Shore not out of line

Average ammonia level and particulate matter studied at Princess Anne, Pocomoke sites

Posted 12/5/22

GEORGETOWN — After collecting data for more than two years about ammonia and particulate matter emissions from chicken houses the Delmarva Chicken Association (DCA) reports little variation in …

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Study: air quality at chicken houses on Lower Shore not out of line

Average ammonia level and particulate matter studied at Princess Anne, Pocomoke sites

Posted

GEORGETOWN — After collecting data for more than two years about ammonia and particulate matter emissions from chicken houses the Delmarva Chicken Association (DCA) reports little variation in average air pollution levels between locations with no poultry farms, areas with low-density poultry farms, and areas with many poultry farms.

The Lower Eastern Shore Air Monitoring Project, overseen by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), began collecting continuous data about ammonia, fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), and coarse particulate matter (PM 10) in April 2020 at locations in Princess Anne (designated a low poultry operation density site), Pocomoke City (designated a high poultry operation density site), and an urban Maryland location not on the Eastern Shore with no nearby poultry operations.

The data through September shows average ammonia (NH3) levels for the urban site to be at 1.6% of a MDE-designated 350 parts per billion concern threshold; 1.3% of the threshold level in Princess Anne (lower than in the urban area); and 2.9% of the threshold in Pocomoke City.

The Pocomoke City site, with a high density of poultry operations, saw lower maximum hourly values for each pollutant than the Princess Anne site, with a comparatively lower density of nearby poultry farms.

Days when relatively maximum hourly values were recorded in Princess Anne, the low poultry operation density site, coincide with days when commercial fertilizer (which contains nitrogen, the solid form of ammonia) was applied to cropland in the area around the monitoring site.

None of the recorded ammonia hourly value spikes at any site have exceeded the 350 parts per billion concern threshold, and the values recorded by MDE during the Lower Eastern Shore Air Monitoring Project are consistent with values recorded throughout the state.

“The nearly 30 months of data recorded and published by the Lower Eastern Shore Air Monitoring Project are valuable to researchers and the public,” said Holly Porter, DCA’s executive director. “We in the chicken community have a shared interest with all Marylanders in better understanding what air quality is truly like on the Eastern Shore and elsewhere in the state.”

Delmarva Chicken Association (DCA) and the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment jointly supported this effort with more than $500,000 in funds. MDE, along with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore are responsible for collecting and publishing the data gathered by the ongoing project.

Similar to this effort, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded nearly $500,000 to Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) of Claymont, Del., to monitor and report the effects of air pollution from industrial poultry operations in Princess Anne, Millsboro and Seaford. 

SRAP will partner with citizen groups to use this information “to create community-oriented solutions to improve public health outcomes” in these communities.

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