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TULSA considering legal action to get clean water

Updated:
TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Tulsans want clean water and city officials say they may take legal action to get it.

Mayor Susan Savage said the city's legal department is exploring legal action to get poultry companies to clean up animal waste, which is polluting one of the city's main sources of drinking water.

``From my standpoint, I'm interested in some sort of impact that helps create a solution,'' Savage said. ``I don't like to try to affect public policy through litigation, but I think we have come to the end of our options.''

But a poultry company official said its management practices for handling waste should be given a chance to work.

A recent study conducted by Oklahoma State University found that 74 percent of the phosphorous flowing into Lake Eucha is coming from non-point sources such as chicken waste.

Another 24 percent comes from the city wastewater plant in Decatur, Ark., which is fed by a chicken processing plant. Too much phosphorous fuels voracious algae growth, causing taste and odor problems in the water.

Farmers use chicken waste as fertilizer and poultry companies say the responsibility for water quality rests with them.

``Traditionally, chicken litter has been an integral part of the farming process,'' said Todd Simmons, president of Simmons Foods. ``The free litter allowed the farmer's yield to increase.

``Not only can he raise chickens, but additional cattle. The farmer uses the litter to grow the hay for the cattle.''

Savage said efforts over the past three years to improve Tulsa's water haven't made significant progress.

A recent opinion from Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson indicates pork and poultry corporations could be liable for animal pollution created by their contract growers.

Simmons said the poultry industry is working with contract farmers on waste management plans.

``The industry is working closely with farmers to educate them on best management practice, which is a long-term, scientifically based solution to the nutrient problem,'' he said.
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