APHIS seeks comments on carcass management options

Comment period reopened on potential environmental effects of animal carcass management options.

Animal Plant Health Inspection Service's Veterinary Services has reopened the comment period for a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to examine the potential environmental effects of animal carcass management options used throughout the United States.

All comments submitted on or before on January 30, 2014 will be considered. 

The Animal Health Protection Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to order the destruction or removal of animals to prevent the introduction and spread of livestock pests or diseases.

Large numbers of animals and carcasses may need to be disposed of or otherwise managed during or after an animal health emergency. Examples of an animal health emergency include, but are not limited to, an outbreak of a foreign animal disease, a natural disaster, or the introduction of a chemical or radiological agent.

As carcasses begin to degrade, bodily fluids, chemical and biological leachate components, and hazardous gases such as methane are released into the environment, potentially impacting the health and safety of surrounding humans, livestock, and wildlife. Therefore, the management of large numbers of carcasses during an animal health emergency must be timely, safe, biosecure, aesthetically acceptable, and environmentally responsible.

Current Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations regarding carcass management, including those found in 9 CFR 53.4, are based on World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) recommendations and sound science. APHIS regulations specify that animals infected by or exposed to foot-and mouth disease, pleuropneumonia, rinderpest, and certain other communicable diseases of livestock or poultry are required to be disposed of by burial or burning, unless otherwise specified by the APHIS Administrator. Traditionally, burial has involved placement of carcasses in unlined pits or trenches, and burning has involved open pyres (i.e., combustible heaps). APHIS may work in conjunction with States to manage animal carcasses during or after an animal health emergency. However, State regulations concerning carcass management vary, and Federal and State regulations are not always based on the most current scientific information with regard to impacts of such activities on the environment and public health.

The EIS will analyze and compare all major and readily available mass carcass management options that may be utilized during an animal health emergency. APHIS is considering classifying mass carcass management as management of 50 tons or more of biomass per premises. In the EIS, we intend to compare unlined burial and open-air burning disposal methods with other available carcass management options. These may include composting (on- or off-site), rendering, landfills compliant with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and other fixed facility options, such as incinerators compliant with the Clean Air Act, that could accommodate a large volume of carcasses over a short period of time.

The findings of the EIS will be used for planning and decision making and to inform the public about the potential environmental effects of currently available carcass management options. Additionally, when mass carcass management options are utilized, site-specific environmental documents may be required. If such documents are needed, APHIS may use information presented and analyzed in the EIS, which will help APHIS to promptly fulfill its environmental compliance obligations when an emergency situation arises requiring immediate action.

Submit comments at www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=APHIS-2013-0044-0009.

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