By KEN MILLER
A federal judge is giving Oklahoma and nearly a dozen poultry companies, including the world’s largest poultry producer, Tyson Foods, an extra 90 days to reach an agreement on plans to clean up a basin contaminated by chicken waste.
US District Judge Gregory Frizzell scheduled a status conference for June 16 in Tulsa on Friday and said both sides requested the extension. The state and poultry companies must submit a joint status report by June 9.
Frizzell ruled in january that Arkansas-based Tyson, Minnesota-based Cargill Inc., and other companies polluted the Illinois River, caused public nuisance, and trespassed by spreading trash, or manure, on land in eastern Oklahoma, and that they later seeped into the river basin. The ruling stemmed from a 2005 lawsuit filed by Oklahoma.
“We have had long and productive discussions with the poultry companies about a resolution,” state Attorney General Gentner Drummond said in a statement.
“The poultry industry has made significant improvements over the years in its litter reduction process, and I hope we can devise a plan that protects Oklahoma’s natural resources without placing unreasonable burdens on businesses,” Drummond said.
Lawyers for the companies did not immediately return phone calls for comment on Saturday.
the judgment of january it had ordered the companies and the state to present an agreement by March 17 on how to remedy the effects of the pollution, which include low oxygen levels in the river, algae growth and damage to the fish population.
The other defendants named in the lawsuit are Cal-Maine Foods Inc., Tyson Poultry Inc., Tyson Chicken Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cargill Turkey Production LLC, George’s Inc., George’s Farms Inc., Peterson Farms Inc., and Simmons Foods Inc.