WASHINGTON – The Humane Society of the United States plans to sue 51 intensive pig confinement operations located in Iowa, North Carolina and Oklahoma for what it claims were unreported releases of the hazardous pollutant ammonia. This move comes after months of HSUS research into an industry it said has become heavily consolidated in recent years.

Many of those receiving notice are affiliated with the leaders and spokespersons of the National Pork Producers Council, which “defends confining pigs in cramped gestation crates”, HSUS charged.

Each targeted operation confines thousands, if not tens of thousands, of pigs—with the females typically in gestation crates— and emits hundreds of pounds of airborne ammonia per day, HSUS said, regularly endangering communities, farm animals, wildlife and the environment. Some executives at firms that received notices also hold executive or spokesperson positions for pork lobbying groups like the NPPC, HSUS added.

When contacted for a response to the HSUS action, an NPPC spokesperson told MEATPOULTRY.com the association is still reviewing the allegations and had no comment at present.

Although the HSUS claims it recognizes there are farmers who are attentive to animal welfare and environmental issues, it added some of the wealthiest pork-producing companies apparently refuse to comply with a critical federal law for public health protection.

The notice letters are required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act before litigation can start, according to that statute’s citizen suit provisions.

HSUS stated that the law requires all facilities that release certain amounts of harmful contaminants to report those amounts to state and local emergency response teams. The information provides the state, emergency responders and the local community with essential information about their exposure to hazardous substances, including ammonia.

Because of ammonia’s lethal potential, high production volume and chronic toxicity, the EPA requires reporting by any facility that releases more than 100 lbs. within a 24-hour period. All operations recently put on notice exceed this requirement, and in some cases by vast amounts, HSUS charged.