U.S. Water News Online
TULSA, Okla. -- Poultry companies will be asked to pay for
the removal of chicken waste from sensitive watersheds as an
alternative to litigation, Oklahoma's environmental secretary says.
The companies have made it clear ``they will not accept technical
legal liability for the action of their contract growers,'' state
Secretary of Environment Brian Griffin said at the 23rd annual
Oklahoma Governor's Water Conference.
``That's a deal-breaker, a line in the sand,'' he said. ``If we
force them to take that liability, they'll fight that all the way to
the U.S. Supreme Court.''
For decades, contract chicken farmers have been applying chicken
waste to pastures as fertilizer. Excessive phosphorus, which is
linked to the chicken waste, is blamed for degrading the water
quality of Oklahoma lakes and scenic rivers.
``There are a lot of things the companies can do with the (waste)
-- gasify it, pelletize it, or compost it. But first you have to bank
it, get it off the fields to a safe storage area, then get it out of
the watershed,'' Griffin said.
``We don't care how you do it. We just want you to take financial
responsibility to deal with it.''
Attorney Charles Shipley, who represents a class-action lawsuit
brought against poultry companies for waste pollution to Grand Lake,
called Griffin's plan, calling it ``weak-kneed.''
``Without having the (poultry companies) being held liable for the
waste generated by the contract growers for their industry, I think
you get less than half a loaf,'' Shipley said.
``We avoid actual relief by avoiding the issue of their
One of Tulsa's main drinking water sources, Lake Eucha, has been
affected by the phosphorus loads, creating chronic taste and odor
episodes that have cost the city millions to treat.
City officials are suing the city of Decatur, Ark., and six
Efforts to reduce pollution in the Illinois River without
litigation have not improved the river.
``Instead of seeing an improvement in water quality of the scenic
river, we've seen a deterioration, just the opposite,'' he said.
Also at the conference, the executive director of the Oklahoma
Water Resources Board said limiting allowable amounts of phosphorus
in Oklahoma's scenic rivers to 0.037 milligrams per liter ``was
critical'' in getting neighboring Arkansas to negotiate what should
be done about poultry waste.
``They have come back with a proposal that is very similar to what
Oklahoma does today through our Department of Agriculture -- soil
testing, litter applications, licensing applicators. And they want to
go a step further than that, and deal with commercial fertilizers,''
Duane Smith said in his ``State of the State's Water'' address.
Smith also said the board has financed grants and loans totaling
more than $1 billion to pay for water and wastewater systems serving
cities, towns and rural water districts in Oklahoma.
The plan also looks at drought preparedness, regional systems,
groundwater recharges, flood plain management and water use dispute
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