AMES, Iowa -- Agricultural engineers from Iowa State University and the University of Kentucky are more than halfway through collecting air emissions data from two commercial broiler houses in western Kentucky in a project proposed to be used as part of a national air emissions monitoring study.

The ISU/UK quality assurance project plan was approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Sept. 25.

Battelle Labs and the EPA also completed a technical systems audit of the monitoring project. Approval of the project plan and completion of the audit are important milestones toward the proposed use of the data to represent air emissions from southeastern broiler systems in the EPA's National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS).

The approval process, as well as the audit to confirm the emissions project is in compliance with written procedures, were conducted in late September with auditors from both EPA and Battelle Labs.

Robert Burns, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at Iowa State, is the project leader.

"We were told the same Battelle auditors and the EPA Region 5 auditors who trained at our site will be auditing the national air emissions monitoring study projects in the future," Burns said. "Since our project is the first to collect data, our team was happy to serve in a leadership role by providing the site where the EPA auditors could be trained to audit other sites that will begin monitoring next year."

Hongwei Xin, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU, and Richard Gates, professor and chair of the biosystems and agricultural engineering department at UK, are project co-leaders.

"The approved quality assurance project plan will not only continue to serve as the road map for completion of this project but should prove beneficial to the planning and implementation of other national air emissions monitoring projects," Xin said.

The national study eventually will include air emissions data from swine houses and manure storage facilities, poultry houses and manure storage facilities, and free-stall dairy facilities across the country. Currently the ISU/UK broiler emissions study is the only study in which researchers are collecting data proposed to be used in the NAEMS effort.

Data is collected, then analyzed and reported to the EPA. The idea behind the monitoring is to gather baseline information that can be used to evaluate differences in emissions due to geographical region, season of the year, time of day, building design, growth cycle of the animals and building management. The emissions data will provide a scientific basis for improving the national emissions inventory and establishing appropriate air emissions guidelines.

The $1 million project in Kentucky, funded by Tyson Foods and the National Chicken Council, originally was designed to monitor just ammonia emissions but was expanded to include carbon dioxide, three types of particulate matter, hydrogen sulfide and non-methane hydrocarbons. Ammonia emissions data has been collected for about a year. Collection of other parameters in the study began February 2006. The monitoring will be completed in February 2007.

Steve Patrick, Tyson Foods Environmental, Health and Safety Operations director, was in attendance at the recent audit and heavily involved in the quality assurance project plan approval process.

"The university team did an excellent job of describing their approach to the challenge of emissions measurement in broiler housing," he said. "I was impressed with their combination of scientific credibility and hands-on practical approach."

"Although a final report on the audit will be forthcoming, the audit team was complimentary of the effort and planning that has gone into this project," Gates said. "While I know our project is impressive, I was still happy to see satisfied auditors."

Burns, Xin and several research assistants and students designed and built the two mobile air emissions monitoring units for the project. Hong Li, an ISU postdoctoral research associate, wrote software to run the equipment and data collection system. The mobile labs filled with state-of-the-art instruments are positioned beside two mechanically ventilated commercial broiler production facilities. Each building houses about 26,000 birds.

Using continuous, high-speed satellite Internet, Burns, Xin and Li at Iowa State and Gates in Lexington can view real-time data from the two mobile labs, such as current temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, ammonia and particulate matter concentrations, which fans are operating and the total building ventilation rate. They also can remotely control the emissions sampling, turning valves on and off from their computers.

Doug Overhults, UK associate Extension professor, and John Earnest Jr., staff engineer, at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton, Ky., are responsible for twice-weekly and as-needed site visits to ensure smooth operation of the system. The ISU team travels to Kentucky between flocks to perform technical auditing and maintenance of the entire monitoring system.

SOURCE: Iowa State University news release.