U.S. Water News Online
TULSA, Okla. -- Poultry companies, including Arkansas-based
Tyson Foods Inc., have agreed to pick up excess chicken litter from
northeastern Oklahoma watersheds where the material has been blamed
for taste and odor problems in drinking water.
The agreement was announced by Attorney General Drew Edmondson,
who plans to continue the process of preparing a lawsuit against
processors. Edmondson's office retained outside legal counsel in
"When the petition is ready, we will file it," Edmondson said. "We
will do discovery. We will proceed as if we are litigating. We are
perfectly willing to negotiate during that process in hopes
negotiations will make litigation unnecessary."
Edmondson's office has been considering litigation to address
pollution concerns surrounding phosphorus-rich chicken waste, which
promotes algae blooms in rivers and lakes.
The blooms take oxygen from the water and choke aquatic life. They
also can create taste and odor problems in drinking water.
The poultry companies involved include Tyson Foods, Peterson
Farms, Simmons Foods, George's and Cargill.
The industry has agreed to "accept responsibility for the removal
from the basins of all chicken litter which can't safely be land
applied," Edmondson said.
The industry has also agreed to have the deal memorialized in a
binding consent decree, the attorney general said.
Janet Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the industry, said producers
"are eager to sit down and talk through and negotiate with the
attorney general. We look forward to the opportunity."
Edmondson has said he would seek monetary damages against poultry
producers if he was forced to retain outside counsel. Monetary
damages would pay the outside attorney fees and cover the cost of
cleaning up streams and lakes, Edmondson said.
But Wilkerson said the concept of monetary damages "is relatively
new" to the poultry producers.
"We are not aware of any damages that have been done," Wilkerson
said. "We are not aware of any factual analysis that has been
conducted that can determine damages."
She said poultry producers are just one part of the equation.
Others include commercial fertilizers, septic tanks and the cattle
"We firmly believe a lawsuit is not necessary, that we can sit
down and talk through it and come up with a solution that will be a
win-win for all."
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which represents growers who
provide the chickens to the producers, said it was unaware of the
agreement. Growers have complained that they are stakeholders who
have been left out of the negotiations.
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