Starting September 22nd, state officials will be able to help develop a new air quality plan for any livestock confinement that exceeds a certain level for hydrogen sulfide — the stinky part of manure odor. Richard Leopold of the Iowa Environmental Council says his group has concerns. But Leopold says “it is a start” since “Iowans have waited far too long for meaningful” air quality standards for Iowa’s livestock industry. However, the new rules do not allow the state to fine an operation or shut it down for repeated offenses. Still, the Iowa Farm Bureau objects. Christina Gruenhagen is a lawyer for the Farm Bureau, and gave this brief testimony before a legislative committee yesterday. Gruenhagen says the Farm Bureau believes the level of 30 parts per billion for hydrogen sulfide is too high, and that’s not the level at which people get sick. But state officials say research indicates 83 percent of people can smell hydrogen sulfide in the air at just 10 parts per billion, and that lower level causes some sort of “discomfort” in 40 percent of people. Wayne Geiselman of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says after three years of trying to get air quality rules in place, it’s time to start collecting the data. Geiselman says the standard imposes no requirements on Iowa’s livestock industry. In 2003, the Iowa Legislature knocked down a previous set of air quality rules that would have applied to livestock confinements as well as other businesses in Iowa. Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement has long lobbied for laws that would restrict or even shut down large-scale livestock confinements, and about a dozen of the group’s members were at the statehouse yesterday to seek action from lawmakers. Marion Kuper of Ackley says mega-sized livestock operations are ‘wreaking havoc” in rural Iowa. She says factory farms are not agricultural enterprises, she says “they’re industrial enterprises masquerading as agricultural in order to evade the kind of pollution regulations that industry has to deal with.” Barb Kalbach of Dexter says the new rule is a step forward. “Rural Iowans deserve to breathe clean air,” she says.
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