APHIS today issued a record of decision for the final programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) on carcass management alternatives that could be implemented during an animal health emergency. The agency has determined that carcasses resulting from animal disease outbreaks, natural disasters, radiological incidents, and chemical exposures can be disposed of safely using a variety of available methods. This decision will be used to support animal health emergency planning and decision-making.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that APHIS assess the potential impacts to the human environment that stem from actions taken in response to animal health emergencies. 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 this programmatic EIS in 2013 and completed the process with today’s record of decision.
APHIS analyzed the environmental effects associated with various carcass management alternatives that could be implemented during a mass animal health emergency. Three alternates were considered and public comment was considered at both the draft and final EIS stages, before making a final decision. APHIS must choose an option that will enhance emergency preparedness and be consistent with the Animal Health Protection Act. Ideally, carcass management uses the safest, most timely, environmentally responsible, and cost-effective methods available.
As a result of this process, APHIS can use any high-capacity, widely available carcass management option that is present at or near the location of the mass animal health emergency if the risks to human health and the environment are equal to, or fewer than, the risks already identified within the EIS. The selection of carcass management options is made on an ad hoc, individual basis, dependent on the type and cause of the emergency, the number of carcasses, site-specific environmental conditions, site-specific risk assessments and/or environmental assessments, public health and safety, and any other relevant information available to APHIS at the time.
Going forward, for any mass animal health emergency, APHIS will draft a site-specific environmental assessment on the carcass management alternatives available. As part of this assessment, APHIS will consider the unique aspects of the emergency area, any new and relevant risk assessments on carcass management, and the cause and nature of the emergency, as well as confirm the need for any additional mitigation measures. APHIS will make any future site-specific carcass management environmental assessments available to the public.
The final EIS is available at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/stakeholders/downloads/2015/eis_carcass_management.pdf