Poultry appeal to be heard in March
TULSA, Okla. (AP)--A federal appeals court has agreed to hear arguments in March in Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson's bid to stop poultry producers from spreading bird waste in the Illinois River watershed.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Dec. 31 granted a request by Oklahoma officials to expedite their appeal of a Tulsa judge's ruling to deny a preliminary injunction in the case.
Edmondson sued 13 Arkansas-based poultry companies in 2005, claiming that they were polluting Oklahoma waters. The poultry companies, which include Tyson Foods Inc., dispute that claim.
Edmondson sought the expedited hearing because much of the bird waste is spread from late winter to early spring. The March date represents the first available term of the court.
The poultry producers did not oppose expediting the process.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell ruled Sept. 29 that the attorney general had not proven that bacteria in the 1-million acre Illinois River watershed came from the poultry waste and not from cattle manure or even human septic systems.
The attorney general's office argued two weeks ago for the expedited hearing to try to get an order that would stop the waste from being spread in early 2009.
"It's typically in the spring when the poultry houses are cleaned out and when the waste is spread on the land," said Charlie Price, a spokesman for Edmondson.
Price said Edmondson and Environment Secretary J.D. Strong want an order from the appeals court to "drastically reduce the runoff of bacteria-laden poultry waste" to make lakes and rivers safer for swimmers and canoeists.
"Summer is the high season for recreational use in the watershed," Price said.
The poultry producers claim that the manure and natural bedding material has been used as natural fertilizer for decades and state officials haven't found a single person who has had health concerns because of the practice.