U.S. Water News Online
TULSA, Okla. -- Poultry companies accused of polluting
Oklahoma's watershed are taking their case against Attorney General
Drew Edmondson outside the courtroom and bringing it to the general
The companies plan to advertise in newspapers, primarily in
northeastern Oklahoma, to challenge what they claim are inaccurate
assertions by Edmondson. The attorney general sued the 13 poultry
companies in federal court last year, claiming that poultry litter is
polluting the Illinois River watershed.
"The Attorney General continues trying his case in the court of
public opinion by spreading exaggerations, innuendo and untruths,"
Janet Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the poultry companies, said in a
Edmondson said the ads are another attempt to derail the lawsuit.
"There is no doubt in my mind that we can make the case in court
that poultry litter is the predominate cause of pollution of the
rivers and the lake, and there's not a doubt in my mind that they
know that," Edmondson said.
"That's why they've tried to stop this in the Oklahoma
Legislature," he said. "That's why they've tried to stop it in
Congress, and that's why they are running these ads."
The federal lawsuit claims that poultry litter, when applied
excessively as fertilizer to fields, ends up in streams and lakes
when it rains. Nutrients in the fertilizer cause excessive algae
growth, which can lead to taste and odor problems in drinking water
The poultry companies, using a fact-versus-fiction format in five
of the ads, terms as "fiction" the claims that poultry production
causes harm to the drinking water in the Illinois River watershed and
that the drinking water is "safer in fact, than the drinking water in
many other areas of Oklahoma where poultry is not produced."
Edmondson agrees that the drinking water is safe after it is
"Water is safe when it comes out of the tap," Edmondson said.
"That doesn't mean it wasn't harmed when it went into your water
treatment plant. The fact that you can fix the harm through excessive
chlorination -- you're talking apples and oranges."
Edmondson said he never made several of the statements attributed
to him in the ads.
One ad claims that Edmondson has said poultry companies are
dumping poultry litter into streams and lakes.
"We're saying it gets into the rivers and lakes by land
application," Edmondson said.
Another ad terms as fiction a supposed claim by the attorney
general that the poultry industry "is refusing to haul poultry litter
out of Oklahoma watersheds." The poultry companies say they have
hauled thousands of tons of poultry litter out of the watershed and
committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to federal programs to
help do so.
Edmondson called the amount of litter that has been removed so far
"I've never said they `refused to' haul poultry litter out of
Oklahoma watersheds," he said. "I've said they haven't hauled out
what they need to haul out."
Wilkerson said the ads will run indefinitely.
"We will continue setting the record straight," she said. "And any
time the attorney general makes another false statement, we will be
quick to respond with a message that sets the facts straight."
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