U.S. Water News Online
TULSA, Okla. -- A federal magistrate has given Oklahoma
permission to take samples of soil, water, waste and runoff from
chicken farms as part of its water pollution lawsuit against Arkansas
The ruling by U.S. Magistrate Sam Joyner was in response to
motions filed by the companies to prevent the sampling.
"We will be in the field as soon as we can," Attorney General Drew
Edmondson said. "The corporate polluters have successfully delayed
the sampling for a few months but they cannot delay forever."
Last month, Edmondson issued about two dozen subpoenas requiring
landowners to allow investigators to collect the samples. Many of the
landowners raise chickens for companies Edmondson has sued.
Edmondson has sued 14 poultry companies, alleging that chicken
litter applied as fertilizer by Oklahoma farmers working for Arkansas
companies is polluting watersheds.
As part of his ruling, Joyner established procedures for how the
sampling would be conducted. The state can enter each farm to take
soil, poultry litter and groundwater samples, but must give the
farmers 72 hours' notice. The court also limited the state to taking
no more than 240 samples per property.
Scott McDaniel, an attorney representing Peterson Farms Inc., one
of the 14 poulty companies sued by the state, said the ruling set
some of the conditions poultry companies felt were needed.
"All in all, we're pleased," McDaniel said. "The judge reined in
some of the overly broad aspects of the subpoenas.
"We're satisfied with what the judge did."
The attorney general's office will be required to set a schedule
for sampling properties. Samplers must gather enough material to
share it with poultry companies for their analysis.
Poultry company representatives will shadow the sampling to ensure
that representatives from the state don't overstep the limits set by
the court, McDaniel said.
"The ball is in the attorney general's court," McDaniel said.
"We'll be waiting for the schedule."
After almost four years of negotiations, Oklahoma last June filed
a federal lawsuit against Tyson Foods Inc., the largest poultry
company, and 13 other companies alleging that their operations
polluted the Illinois River watershed and Lake Tenkiller.
The suit alleges that the Arkansas-based poultry companies are
legally responsible for the pollution that is caused by runoff from
improper land application and storage of tons of poultry waste.
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