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Closing Arguments Begin In Oklahoma Poultry Lawsuit

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Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he believes the state has proven its case. Attorney General Drew Edmondson said he believes the state has proven its case.
It's the presence of phosphorous in the watershed that creates algae - and a cloudy, slimy body of water. It's the presence of phosphorous in the watershed that creates algae - and a cloudy, slimy body of water.
Poultry producers say the real culprits are the 12 wastewater treatment plants inside the watershed. Poultry producers say the real culprits are the 12 wastewater treatment plants inside the watershed.

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Nearly five months after it began, closing arguments began Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma against poultry companies in Oklahoma and in Arkansas.

The state of Oklahoma wants the federal court to force the poultry industry to limit the amount of chicken waste that can be put on fields in the Illinois River watershed.

The trial amounts to a "who-dunnit." The state says the poultry industry is helping to contaminate some of Oklahoma's favorite waterways.    

But the poultry industry says the state's math is faulty and the blame should be put elsewhere.

The Oklahoma Attorney General's office says on average 125,000 birds are bred each year on just one poultry farm. Between 2001 and 2006, the state says those birds produced 2.7 million tons of waste.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed suit against the poultry industry saying all of that waste has polluted the Illinois River watershed as well as Lake Tenkiller.

2/11/2010 Related Story: Closing Arguments Delayed In Oklahoma Pollution Trial

"The record had to be made, and we put the evidence in, the experts, and the testimony necessary to establish that there had been violations of both federal and state law, and that they've adversely impacted the river - and we need the help of the courts to correct it," said Attorney General Drew Edmondson.

In closing arguments, the state said it scientifically proved that poultry houses are directly responsible for the large amounts of phosphorous in the watershed. It's the phosphorous that creates the algae which, the state says, is turning Lake Tenkiller into a green, slimy mess.

Representatives with the poultry industry declined to comment on camera when they left the courthouse, instead released a statement: 

"We feel good about how the case progressed and believe the evidence confirms that poultry farmers are abiding by all laws that regulate the use of litter as a fertilizer. We also believe the evidence confirms that poultry litter used in accordance with these laws is not harming the Illinois River or Lake Tenkiller."

The poultry industry says the state's math is rigged to blame its breeders and the real culprits are the 12 wastewater treatment plants inside the watershed. For proof, they point to one field that was never treated with chicken litter but still had one of the highest rates of phosphorous.

Regardless of the judge's ruling, this case is far from over. If the judge rules against the state, Attorney general Edmondson plans to appeal two of the judge's earlier rulings. If he rules against the poultry industry, they are expected to appeal as well.

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