Guymon Daily Herald

Tyson, others, lose Oklahoma lawsuit over poultry pollution


The world’s largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods, is among nearly a dozen poultry companies that have less than two months to reach agreement with the state of Oklahoma on how to clean a watershed polluted by chicken litter.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in Tulsa ruled Wednesday that Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc. and other companies polluted the Illinois River, caused a public nuisance and trespassed by spreading the litter, or manure, on land in eastern Oklahoma, and that it then leached into the river’s watershed.

The companies and the state have until March 17 to present an agreement on how to remedy the pollution’s effects, which includes low oxygen levels in the river, algae growth and damage to the fish population.

That time frame is enough to reach such a deal, according to former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who filed the lawsuit in the case in 2005.

“Whether (poultry companies) ultimately agree to a meaningful solution, I don’t know,” Edmondson said.

“They don’t have much wiggle room” to make demands in an agreement, he added, but “I don’t know if they know that yet.”

Edmondson noted that if no agreement is reached, the court will render a judgment on the remedies according to Frizzell’s ruling.

Cargill spokespers­on Daniel Sullivan said in an email Thursday that the company has a record of “proactivel­y taking action to protect the environmen­t,” but he did not say what the next step would be.

“We have received the ruling related to the ... case in Oklahoma and are reviewing it. We remain dedicated to conducting business in a responsibl­e and sustainabl­e manner,” it read.

A spokespers­on for Tyson did not immediatel­y return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

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