In preparation for another potential avian influenza outbreak in the fall, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking public comments on a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for mass carcass management. APHIS is also publishing an environmental assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for highly pathogenic avian influenza.
Livestock carcasses in large numbers can present a potential environmental risk. The agency 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 highly pathogenic avian influenza were discovered in the U.S. in December 2014. This 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 highly pathogenic avian influenz 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 avian influenza 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 highly pathogenic avian influenza; or responding to future avian influenza outbreaks with federal involvement in collaboration with state and local officials, as was done in the most recent outbreak of 2015 – and selected the second option. The EA determined that following the current procedures mitigated the environmental impacts of the response.
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, August 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 via the Federal eRulemaking portal.