USDA seeks comment on mass carcass disposal plan

APHIS also publishes environmental assessment of avian influenza outbreak.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Aug. 14 that it is seeking public comments on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for mass carcass management. Additionally, APHIS is also publishing an environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

Livestock carcasses in large numbers can present a potential environmental risk, and APHIS must effectively manage carcasses in a mass animal health emergency to reduce potential risks to humans, livestock and the surrounding environment.

APHIS began work on the draft EIS in 2013, well before the first cases of HPAI were discovered in the U.S. in December 2014. This EIS process typically takes two to three years. APHIS is continuing work on the EIS to assist with future animal disease outbreaks. Work related to the EIS that was done during the winter and spring outbreak of HPAI was consistent with the draft EIS.

In the draft EIS, APHIS analyzes the environmental effects associated with various carcass management alternatives that could be implemented during a mass animal health emergency. The findings of this EIS will be used to support mass animal health emergency planning and decision-making.

As part of the EA, APHIS included all operational aspects of HPAI response including surveillance, detection, establishment of quarantines, depopulation of flocks, cleaning and disinfection, transport of biomass and disposal of biomass.

The agency evaluated two options — taking no action, which would allow state and local officials to respond to HPAI; or responding to future HPAI outbreaks with federal involvement in collaboration with state and local officials, as was done in the most recent outbreak of HPAI this year — and selected the second option. The EA determined that following the current procedures mitigated the environmental impacts of the response.

The draft EIS is available at: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2013-0044

The EA and FONSI are available at:

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/stakeholders/downloads/2015/hpai_ea.pdf

http://www.aphis.usda.gov/stakeholders/downloads/2015/hpai_fonsi.pdf

Both the notice of availability for the draft EIS and the EA with the FONSI are expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, Aug. 21. Interested persons are invited to comment on these documents. The draft EIS will be open for public comment for 60 days, and the EA and FONSI will be available for public comment for 30 days.

Comments regarding these documents may be submitted by either of the following methods:

* Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=APHIS-2013-0044

* Post Mail/Commercial Delivery: Send your comment to USDA APHIS, Policy and Program Development, Environmental and Risk Analysis Services, 4700 River Road, Unit 149, Riverdale MD 20737.

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