Arkansas poultry companies accused of water pollution

ARKANSAS — Poultry farmer Gene Pharr scoffs at the thought of chicken droppings as hazardous waste. Poultry waste spread along the Ozark Mountains has turned the region into a lush green, he says. And chickens have made the northwestern corner of Arkansas truly prosperous.

That's why Pharr fears a lawsuit targeting the industry that could put chicken waste on par with industrial solvents, pesticide remnants and old car batteries. "We could see the loss of this industry to this country," says Pharr, whose 125,000 chickens are a fraction of the region's $2 billion industry.

Oklahoma's attorney general, Drew Edmondson, sees it another way. Edmondson says phosphorous from poultry litter runoff fuels algae growth that reduces the clarity of rivers and streams, depletes oxygen and can kill certain populations of fish.

He remembers that, as a college student in Tahlequah, Okla., he could stand chest-high in the Illinois River and still see his toes. "I've seen it change," Edmondson says. "It's nice to have green land. It's not so nice to have green rivers."

Last month, he sued 14 Arkansas poultry companies — including three run by Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat producer — accusing them of tainting Oklahoma waters with the waste from millions of chickens and turkeys.

Oklahoma's lawsuit, filed June 13, seeks unspecified money to clean up the Illinois River and is using the same South Carolina law firm that handled lawsuits against tobacco companies.

Source: AP via USA Today
calendar icon 25 July 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
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