January 2015: A week of challenges in Seville

I would like to start by wishing you all a successful, prosperous, healthy and happy New Year. I’m not quite sure where 2014 went, but I’m looking forward to what 2015 has to offer.

I signed off last month’s column heading to the European Commission (EC) offices in Seville for a week of detailed discussion and negotiation around the content of the second draft of the EID Bref, or, put simply, the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) rule book.

The document has been a “work in progress” since 2008, and started with the collection of research papers detailing how emissions such as nitrogen and phosphorus excretion, ammonia, dust and odour emission to air, water and power consumption can all be reduced by feeding, housing, slurry storage and spreading techniques.

The document covers pigs as well as commercial poultry from quail through to turkeys. What a mammoth task for those involved, collecting all of this information into a single reference document and then proposing what are known as best available techniques (BAT) and the new BAT associated emission limit (AEL).

The warm up to the week in Seville started on Sunday morning and involved meeting up with Alison Holdsworth of the Environment Agency (EA), Anna Simpson of the NFU, Wallace Henry of Ireland’s United Farmers Association and Gerrard McCrutcheon of Teagsac at Stansted airport. None of us realised at that point what a long week we were facing.

The meeting in Seville was organised, chaired and managed by the Joint Research Centre. There were representatives from about half the EC member states (mainly from northern countries), representatives from farmer’s organisations and an environmental non-government organisation. Government representatives ranged from civil servants to environmental departments, regulators, technical specialists and consultants.

First up for discussion was environmental management systems, a particular focus for the EA at the moment. Although an administrative rather than technical challenge, it was clear that a well-organised office is a must.

Then onto some of the more complex issues. Should limits be set as to the maximum allowed level of protein in feed, or should there be a limit on the nitrogen and phosphorus content of excreta? Excreta limits won, giving nutritionists more room for manoeuvre.

This is where the AEL’s come in. Quite simply, this is the maximum amount of a substance that can be emitted when operating a BAT.

If you’re still confused, when feeding pigs or poultry there’ll be a limit to the nitrogen and phosphorus content of the manure at each stage of production. For housing systems, there’ll be a limit to the upper and lower quantity of ammonia that can be emitted.

This is where things slowed down. There were those who didn’t want slats and those against straw, while a few wanted ammonia limits set as low as physically possible and air scrubbers a compulsory fitting for all new builds. But, hopefully, we have reached workable compromises, with scrubbers staying optional.

> Nigel Penlington joined BPEX in  2004 and is the organisation’s environment programme manager. He specialises in environmental issues affecting the UK pig industry and production technology

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