PULLMAN, WASH. – For the next 24 months, Pius Ndegwa, a scientist and extension specialist in Washington State University’s biological systems engineering department, will be monitoring the air at a typical Washington dairy.
The biological systems engineer’s work is part of a $14.6 million national study led by Purdue University to measure levels of gases and airborne pollutants emitted from poultry, swine and dairy confinement facilities. Researchers at seven universities are collaborating with Purdue to collect data at 20 study sites in eight states.
“Right now, nobody is really sure of how much pollutants these facilities are emitting,” Ndegwa said. “This is the first major, comprehensive study that will be able to provide that information.”
Ndegwa has set up high tech gear at an undisclosed location in eastern Washington to measure ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, particulates and other chemicals on a 24-hour basis. Study sites are not disclosed without the approval of participating farmers.
“Almost everything is automated,” Ndegwa said. “We have a trailer on the site. Everything that is sampled eventually gets to a set of equipment we have in the trailer that continuously measures and records emissions of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds and particulates PM-2.5 and PM-10.”
Airborne particulates between 2.5 micrometers and10 micrometers in diameter can lodge in the lungs and affect human health. A micrometer is 1 millionth of a meter.
He will be able to observe results on a terminal in his office on campus. “I can log in and find out what is going on at any particular time of the day.”
The collected data will be useful in developing tools for estimating emissions of the pollutants, Ndegwa said, and help establish infrastructure to test emission-abatement strategies.
“There are a lot of things that need to happen if the animal industry is to be sustainable,” Ndegwa said. “I am glad to be involved in this kind of a project. It’s quite comprehensive, and hopefully, we’ll find the answers that everybody is looking for.”
The Agricultural Air Research Council, a non-profit organization funded by livestock groups, is funding the study.
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