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Chicken farmers feel

threatened by Oklahoma suit

ROSE, Okla. (AP)--Chicken farmers in Oklahoma say their livelihoods are being threatened by a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

The lawsuit accuses a dozen Arkansas poultry processors of polluting the Illinois River watershed in eastern Oklahoma with bird waste.

A federal trial is to start Sept. 21 and--depending on the outcome--could lead to similar environmental lawsuits nationwide.

The million-acre river valley spans parts of Oklahoma and Arkansas and includes some 1,800 poultry houses. More than 55,000 people in Oklahoma and Arkansas work in the poultry industry.

Edmondson says the sheer volume of the waste has led to environmental havoc. He says the runoff carries bacteria into lakes and streams where it threatens the health of tens of thousands of people.

Industry spokeswoman Jackie Cunningham says agriculture is an easy target and other sources of pollution--such as small towns, golf courses, cattle ranches and nurseries, should be taken into account.

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