Eleven Arkansas poultry companies including Tyson Foods and Cargill are on trial for disposing of millions of tons of chicken litter by giving it to local crop farmers as fertilizer, which allegedly has harmed the Illinois watershed shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas as well as Lake Tenkiller, reports AP (via New York Times).
Closing arguments began Thursday (Feb. 18) with the state of Oklahoma stating that it had scientifically proven that the poultry farms are directly responsible for the large amounts of phosphorous in the watershed, and for turning Lake Tenkiller into a “green, slimy mess,” reports News on 6.
The state is asking the U.S. District Judge to limit the amount of poultry waste that can be applied to fields in the Illinois River watershed to not more than 65 pounds per acre, and to remove the excess waste that cannot be applied to the land from the watershed, reports Tulsa World. The state is also asking that the defendants pay for the remediation of the watershed, plaintiff’s attorney fees, litigation costs and unspecified civil penalties, according to the article.
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office says on average 125,000 birds are bred each year on just one poultry farm, which translates into 2.7 million tons of waste between 2001 and 2006.
In response, the poultry industry says the state’s math is wrong and the real cause of the phosphorous are the 12 wastewater treatment plants inside the watershed, citing the high phosphorus rates at one field not treated with chicken litter, reports News on 6.
Attorneys for the poultry companies said in the article that Oklahoma failed to produce evidence that the waste threatens people or the environment.
The other defendants named in the lawsuit are Cal-Maine Foods, Cobb-Vantress, George’s Inc., George’s Farms, Peterson Farms and Simmons Foods.