Several Residents Are Upset At Simmons Foods

Sunday, September 26th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Some northeastern Oklahomans plan to take a poultry giant to court. More than 30 people filed a lawsuit against Simmons Foods.

They say runoff from the chicken plant contaminates their air and water. Simmons says its spent millions to keep the water clean. Riley Needham spends a lot of time at Cave Springs Branch. The stream runs next to his land and feeds into his family's water supply.

"I haven't drank the water now in several years," says Needham.

Needham says he started buying bottled water after tests showed their well water is contaminated with bacteria. He says the bacteria washed in from the Cave Springs Branch.

"I can take you to other Ozark streams and it's polluted. It's clearly polluted," says Needham.

Needham and more than 30 of his neighbors want Cave Springs Branch, Honey Creek and Honey Creek Branch cleaned up.

"I don't want to leave this to my daughter, I don't want to leave this to her, so it's my goal to see it cleaned up and put back like it should be," says Needham.
The group has filed a lawsuit against Simmons Foods Incorporated whose chicken processing plant is just up the stream. They say the plant is dumping improperly treated wastewater into the creeks killing wildlife, dirtying their water supply and smelling up the air.

"We're being denied the use of this stream," says Becky Jones, resident.

Simmons says they are devoted to keeping the environment clean.

"Over the past two years we've invested over 4 million dollars on both air and water quality," says Todd Simmons.

Simmons says he can't comment on this particular lawsuit because he has not yet been served with papers. But he says the company keeps an eye on the creeks, too, and are trying to keep them clean.

"I want it to be one of the best creeks in the state and the country and I believe we will and we have the people and the facilties to do that," says Simmons.

Neighbors say they've heard that before because this has been an ongoing battle. Needham says that when the fight began he thought state officials would take care of the problems. But now it says it looks like it may take the courts to clear up the water.