Oklahoma, Arkansas Poultry Industry Continue Court Battle Over Water Pollution

Poultry Industry Continues Court Battle Over Water PollutionOklahoma’s lawsuit against 11 poultry companies, including Tyson Food Inc., continues to take interesting twist and turns in court as more witnesses testify.

Poultry companies have claimed that Oklahoma state officials took too long to file suit about alleged water pollution from bird waste, The Associated Press (AP) reported last week.

The delay in examining the chicken houses may have been a result of an understaffed and overworked state agency. According to Teena Gunter’s — the deputy general counsel for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry — testimony the agency only has two inspectors to overlook the 1 million-acre section of the Illinois River valley. The valley is located across both Arkansas and Oklahoma.

This accusation follows the testimony of Oklahoma’s expert state witnesses, geologist J. Berton Fisher, who admitted to hiring family members and friends to conduct research for a report that has been the cornerstone of the case. One of Fisher’s researchers included a daughter of one of Oklahoma’s lawyers in the case, AP also reported two weeks ago.

Attorneys representing the Arkansas Poultry Industry used the cross-examination to show that Fisher’s report, which studied whether or not chicken waste had polluted the Illinois River watershed, was biased towards the state.

Oklahoma Attorney General, William Andrew Edmondson, filed a lawsuit against the out-of-state businesses four years ago. Edmondson claims the industries indirectly polluted the river valley with runoff water from their farm fields, which contained bird waste fertilizer. Farmers in northeastern Oklahoma use the chicken droppings as a cheap alternative.

“Too much poultry waste is being dumped on the ground and it ends up in the water. That’s against the law,” Edmondson announced in a 2005 press statement. Edmondson is currently running for governor in the 2010 election.

According to Forbes, the prosectors hired by Oklahoma won’t get paid unless the state wins, ensuring taxpayers won’t bear the brunt of legal costs. Oklahoma has already spent $25 million on the case.

Source: Associated Press

Read more about the case from Forbes. For more information on the Oklahoma-Tyson rift try The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

2 replies
  1. Bryant Hudson says:

    Obviously, these are complex issues. But let me observe that Lake Tenkiller water quality has dramatically declined over the last 30 years with the increase of chicken farming. I also read the USGS reports on nutrient loading of the watershed. Why are people so short sighted (well money duh). Chicken waste is great fertilizer – you just don’t need so much in one place. Lake Tenkiller used to be a beautiful lake – it was true treasure of Oklahoma.

  2. Kathleen Curlee says:

    Chicken waste is a horrible fertilizer. Even a little bit of it can effect the overall health of you. Agriculture is sometimes harmful because of the poor choice farmers make in choosing pesticides and fertilizers. All these things they are applying to the soil are making ground water bad to even touch. Please think on this subject a little more Bryant Hudson. And do some more research.

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