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SEABOARD complies with EPA order

Updated:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Seaboard Farms, Inc., began trucking in water Friday to residents near five of the company's hog farms where the Environmental Protection Agency says private water supplies have been contaminated by lagoons of hog manure.

Meanwhile, Gov. Frank Keating vetoed legislation that he said would have relaxed mandated distances between hog farms and recreational camps.

Opponents had charged the measure would give Seaboard a legal victory in its court battle to operate a hog farm near a tiny church in the Oklahoma Panhandle.

``This bill would have brought an overly restrictive definition of a camp or recreational site, and it ran counter to the extraordinary strides Oklahoma has made in the realm of hog farm regulations,'' Keating said.

Seaboard officials were not immediately available to comment on the governor's action.

Keating also vetoed another measure that he said would make it more difficult for cities and communities to deal with polluted bodies of water.

``With these vetoes, I want to make it clear that Oklahomans will jealously guard its environment,'' Keating said.

EPA spokeswoman Cynthia Fanning said Seaboard has promised to deliver 100 gallons of water per day to each of the 20 residents in Kingfisher and Major counties where the EPA found evidence of groundwater contamination near Seaboard hog farms.

Fanning said the agency was telephoning residents Friday night to confirm delivery of the fresh water.

The agency instructed residents in four households to stop drinking their tap water after samples indicated dangerously high levels of nitrates, which is converted by the body into a compound that interferes with the blood's ability to carry oxygen.

The EPA issued an order Thursday instructing Seaboard to provide fresh drinking water to the residents and to determine the extent of the groundwater contamination.

``We have asked them to use it for cooking, drinking, bathing, washing _ everything,'' Fanning said.

But she said Seaboard's water deliveries are a temporary measure until the company and the EPA determine the extent of contamination to private drinking wells in the area.

``We are not going to propose a permanent solution at this moment,'' she said.

``The first thing to do is try to understand the nature of how big the problem is,'' said Tim Jones, an attorney at the EPA's regional office in Dallas.

``We're going to work with Seaboard to try to determine the scope of the problem,'' he said.

Seaboard spokesman Gary Reckrodt said the Kansas-based company plans to cooperate with the EPA and will comply with the requirements of its order.

Reckrodt has previously said the company's hog farms are environmentally sound.

State officials have said the Seaboard hog farms were licensed in 1994 before tough new rules for hog farms were enacted by the Legislature in 1998 and that the sites would not qualify under the new requirements.

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