Poultry producers and industry officials say the state’s attempt to prevent the application of poultry litter within the Illinois River Watershed amounts to little more than political grandstanding.
A spokeswoman for the Poultry Community Council said it is “unfortunate that the state’s top law enforcement official has resorted to scare tactics and exaggerations in his latest legal maneuver against poultry producers.”
Jackie Cunningham’s comments were prompted by Attorney General Drew Edmondson’s request for a preliminary injunction. If granted, the injunction would prohibit the application of poultry litter to land lying within the northeast Oklahoma scenic river’s watershed.
Edmondson alleges the prohibition is necessary to prevent the bacteria and nutrients contained in the estimated 347,000 tons of poultry waste generated annually within the watershed from washing into the state’s scenic rivers during spring thunderstorms.
According to documents filed last week in the state’s lawsuit against the poultry industry, stormwater runoff from areas where poultry waste is used as fertilizer contains fecal matter and bacteria in amounts found in raw sewage.
Poultry industry proponents dispute Edmondson’s claims and defend “the safe, government-regulated practice of using poultry manure as a fertilizer.”
“Contrary to his claims, there is no ‘imminent and substantial endangerment’ to public health from the safe, government-regulated practice of using poultry manure as a fertilizer,” Cunningham said. “If there were, Oklahoma’s own state officials who monitor the river and protect the health of Oklahoma’s citizens surely would have addressed it.”
Cunningham, in her written response to last week’s filing, said the fact Edmondson waited more than two years after filing the lawsuit against the poultry industry to request the litter application ban is “further evidence” the request is “just another litigation and PR stunt.”
Seeking the request, according to the motion, was prompted by concerns about the annual cleaning of poultry feeding operations that typically begin shortly after the first of the year. The problem, the document states, is the spring rains that generally follow the annual cleaning.
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