Eleven poultry companies in Arkansas and Oklahoma have been sued over their waste disposal and accused of poisoning the Illinois River watershed. That watershed is shared by Oklahoma and Arkansas and the state of Oklahoma filed the suit. The trial has gone on for four months now and last week the attorneys made their closing arguments. The judge has not yet issued a ruling.
The Plaintiff Side
The plaintiffs claim that for several decades, the companies have disposed of their chicken waste by giving it to local farmers for fertilizer. The waste includes feathers, droppings, and bedding (straw? hay?) left behind after the chickens are taken to slaughter. This has contaminated the watershed, according to the plaintiffs, and instead of being given to the farmers, the waste should have been disposed of properly. News reports are not saying what a proper method of disposal would be.
The Defendant Side
Lawyers representing the poultry companies say that their clients did handle the waste responsibly and lawfully. They say that Oklahoma has not produced any evidence that the chicken waste has polluted the watershed; and they claim that the pollution has been caused by twelve wastewater treatment plants in the area, plus runoff from local cattle waste.
One of the poultry companies is Tyson Poultry, Inc. and Mark Hopson, attorney for Tyson, described Oklahoma’s science, used to make its case, as “… scattered dots and scattered lines of evidence that are not connected”.
The judge in this case is U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell. He ruled last year that Oklahoma may not pursue monetary damages, but may seek injunctive relief including a temporary moratorium on use of the waste on farmlands and the appointment of monitors to supervise proper disposal of the waste.
No doubt there will be a ruling on this case in the near future. If you have been harmed by another person’s use of their property, you may have a valid premises liability claim. You can learn more about your legal rights and options by contacting our office for a free case evaluation.