, Muskogee, OK

April 9, 2013

Poultry litter report shows little progress

Little net change; amount removed offset by new production

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Efforts to reduce and remove wastes produced by poultry operations within the Illinois River watershed west of the Arkansas state line appear to have stalled.

An annual report published by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry shows poultry waste production within the watershed increased 9.78 percent in 2011. Application of that poultry waste within the watershed fell by 0.08 percent, and exports to other watersheds increased 11.59 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Figures provided in the March 27 report reflect those amounts produced and applied within the watershed or transported elsewhere between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012. Because of reporting guidelines, data for the last six months of 2012 will be unavailable until next year.

Poultry operations within the watershed generated 71,639 tons of waste during the year, up 6,359 tons from the 65,010 tons produced in 2010. Property owners within the nutrient limited watershed applied 7,768 tons of poultry wastes to their land, a decrease of six tons from the 7,774 tons applied in 2010.

Of the 63,871 tons of poultry wastes transported outside the watershed during fiscal year 2011, 22,227 tons, about 35 percent, were applied at unspecified locations within the state. Another 41,644 tons, or 65 percent, were exported to unspecified locations outside Oklahoma.

Clean water advocates criticized the report, saying the “information is old and incomplete.” They point to the fact that 2012 figures are available for the Eucha-Spavinaw watershed but not for the Illinois River. The report also fails to specify the final destination point for poultry wastes exported from the watershed.

“While it is highly laudable that poultry waste, and a substantial amount at that, is being removed from this watershed, we really have no information on where it is going,” said Save the Illinois River President Denise Deason-Toyne. “There is concern that it may be going to another watershed upstream or other very impaired areas.”

Deason-Toyne said without accurate documentation of the final destination of exported litter, it is difficult to assess the overall impact poultry wastes have on water quality within the state.

Ed Brocksmith, a founding STIR member who earned recognition in November as an Oklahoma Water Pioneer, echoed the concerns of his colleague. He also questioned the reliability of the data included in the report.

“The information for the report is supplied by the folks who produce the waste and spread it around,” Brocksmith said. “If the report is accurate, it is a relief to see this much poultry waste is removed from the Illinois River watershed.”

While he applauds efforts to limit applications poultry wastes within the watershed, Brocksmith said he would prefer a permanent moratorium on application. He said that is what the state sought in a lawsuit filed in 2005 against 14 poultry companies.

The 52-day bench trial before U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa ended Feb. 18, 2010. After the passage of more than three years, Frizzell has yet to render an opinion.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or