U.S. Water News Online
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AP) -- Oklahoma Attorney General Drew
Edmondson says he has already spent $1 million on his lawsuit aimed
at reducing the amount of chicken litter that can leach into the
Illinois River watershed.
Edmondson sued eight poultry companies this summer, claiming
runoff in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma farms pollutes the Illinois
River with excess phosphorus, nitrogen and other hazardous
substances. He wants a judge to order damage in the watershed be
repaired, plus attorneys fees.
Poultry litter is a combination of bird manure and rice hulls or
wood chips. Many farmers in the watershed spread the waste onto their
land as fertilizer. Excess fertilizer can run off into streams, and
Edmondson says pollution is harming the Illinois River and Lake
Tenkiller in Oklahoma.
Representatives for poultry companies, farmers and some Arkansas
officials have said Edmondson is only after money, not cleaning the
"I think they're in a poor position today to say its about the
money when they have had years to do the right thing," Edmondson
said. "I'm not sure you can separate out the money from the
environment. We're asking for money in order to do reclamation to try
to correct the damage done by the poultry industry to the water."
Much of the $1 million spent includes money for expert witnesses,
aerial photography, water and soil analysis and other costs, he said.
A previous lawsuit by the city of Tulsa, Okla., resulted in a
settlement that included shipping large amounts of poultry litter out
of the Eucha-Spavinaw watershed, which feeds reservoirs that provide
Tulsa's drinking water.
Janet Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the poultry companies and
employee of Peterson Farms Inc. of Decatur, said mediations between
the two sides broke down because Edmondson's demands took a back seat
to water quality.
"Despite what some politicians keep saying in the media, we have
offered to do more than a court could order. The simple fact is only
a comprehensive, scientific approach that takes into account all
sources of nutrients will provide a meaningful method to manage this
issue in a way that actually helps improve water quality and is fair
to everyone," Wilkerson said.
The defendants say treated water from wastewater treatment plants,
septic tanks and commercial fertilizers are also potential sources of
phosphorus in the watershed.
The five largest cities in Northwest Arkansas have already dropped
their phosphorus levels to under one milligram per liter. The two
states have also agreed to try to meet a goal of 0.037 milligrams of
phosphorus in one liter of water in the river by 2012.
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