The Maryland Department of Environment has announced the state will launch an effort to monitor air quality around Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in central Maryland, according to the Salisbury Daily Times.  

The new plan, the Lower Eastern Shore Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Project, will include two monitoring stations that will be built on the Lower Eastern Shore.  The monitoring stations will measure ammonia, fine particulate matter and coarse particulate matter for one year, one upwind and one downwind of poultry houses.

Working with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Delmarva Poultry Industry (DPI) and the Keith Campbell Foundation, a family grant foundation focused on the environment, have jointly committed more that $500,000 to this effort to provide monitoring equipment for the new plan.

DPI will not be involved in data collection or analysis. Data from the two new ambient air monitoring states will be collected and tabulated by the Maryland Department of the Environment.  “We firmly believe the air our farmers and their neighbors breathe is healthy and safe, but we also understand why there is skepticism about that from beyond the chicken community,” said Holly Porter, DPI’s executive director.

“Instead of simply asking for the public’s trust that the chicken community’s best practices are doing what’s right for the environment.  We want our families, friends and neighbors to be able to see for themselves what ammonia and particulate matter levels are on the Eastern shore,” Porter said.

DPI has been in collaboration with the Maryland Department of the Environment for several months, said James Fisher, DPI’s communication manager.  Fisher said they decided to partner with the agency because they were concerned that air quality results from DPI would not be widely trusted by the public.

DPI said in a statement that “chicken growers and chicken companies take seriously our responsibility to be responsible stewards of the air, water, and land around us. Farm families raising chickens care deeply about air quality on and near their farms.  Advances in chicken nutrition, the composition of litter in chicken houses, and the increased use of vegetative environmental buffers on family farms where chickens are raised have all made farmers better neighbors when it comes to how their farms affect the air. This monitoring will add to what we know about ambient air quality in the areas of Maryland where chickens are raised.”

“We in the chicken community have a shared interest with all Marylander’s in better understanding what air quality is truly like on the Eastern Shore,” said Holly Porter, DPI’s executive director.  “Because we will never neglect our commitment to environmental responsibility, we believe gathering more data about air quality here helps everyone.” Porter said.

However, some critics are already lining up against the Maryland Department of Environment project. The plan has drawn criticism from those that say it may be too narrow in scope to provide useful information.  “My biggest question when I hear about what they have proposed is how representative could it be to the entire industry,” said Keeve Hachman, assistant professor at John Hopkins School of Public Health.  Environmentalists and activists have already voiced unease whether a plan that was developed in any capacity with the poultry industry can be trusted to provide reliable data.