Oversight Extended In Poultry Case

Wednesday, October 3rd 2007, 3:02 pm

By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A federal judge has extend the term of a special agent appointed in 2003 as part of a settlement agreement between the city of Tulsa and the six poultry companies it sued over pollution in its watershed.

In a ruling filed Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Claire Eagan extended the appointment of the ``special master,'' or party appointed by the court to exercise its power, to Feb. 13, 2008, the date federal oversight of the case is to end.

The term was due to expire Saturday.

The special master was appointed on Oct. 6, 2003, as part of the settlement agreement to hire and train members of the Watershed Monitoring Team. The team was charged with implementing a revised phosphorous index system in the watershed, among other duties.

Details of a motion filed last month by the city to have the judge revise rules to further limit how much poultry waste can be spread on land throughout the Eucha Spavinaw watershed remained confidential.

``Additional measures need to be taken,'' said Jim Cameron, a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority. ``It literally takes decades for the amount of phosphorous in the soil to dissipate.''

Attorneys for both the poultry companies and the city brought a joint motion to extend the term.

Before Saturday, the poultry companies had paid the monitor's salary _ about $105 an hour _ and expenses as part of the settlement agreement. For the next four months, Eagan ruled the city and the metropolitan utility authority must pay the bills.

``We had no objection to extending the special master so he could stay on the job until that period,'' said Scott McDaniel, an attorney for Peterson Farms, Inc., one of the poultry companies that settled with Tulsa.

In 2001, Tulsa and its utility authority filed a lawsuit claiming that the operations of six poultry companies applied 170 million pounds of waste in the watershed, and that excess phosphorous and nitrogen from it makes its way into Tulsa's water supply.

Named in that suit were Peterson Farms, Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Simmons Foods Inc. and George's Inc. Also named was the town of Decatur, Ark., because its water treatment plant is used by Peterson Farms to process wastewater discharge from its plant there.

The six companies are also named in a 2005 federal lawsuit brought by Attorney General Drew Edmondson, accusing them of polluting the Illinois River watershed with chicken litter. That case is ongoing.

State and environmental officials contend that years of illegal spreading of the waste, which contains bacteria, antibiotics, growth hormones and harmful metals, is killing Oklahoma's scenic lakes and rivers.

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