Tulsa, OK (August 10, 2005) The Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority (TMUA) agreed to retain Tulsa-based public relations firm Alexander and Lee to step up its fight against Tyson and big Arkansas poultry as it seeks to protect its watershed from pollution created by disposing of phosphorus laden chicken feces in fields and pastures.
Lee Gould, principal of the firm, was retained because of his experience working for the poultry industry and his knowledge of the issues. “Alexander and Lee was selected precisely because of Gould’s in-depth work for the poultry industry while employed by another public relations firm,” cites Lou Reynolds, TMUA Chairman. “We have a story to tell – a story that comes from the need to protect our water and Oklahoma’s future. We’ve hired Mr. Gould to help us tell that story.”
The ongoing poultry waste issue has spawned legal battles between poultry firms in Arkansas and government entities in Oklahoma. Numerous, in-depth, scientific studies have singled out phosphorus in chicken waste as the primary cause for polluting Oklahoma’s scenic waterways. Oklahoma citizens have been forced to pay millions in expenses to study, monitor and clean up the waste irresponsibly dumped into our waterways by the Arkansas poultry companies. “This is an Oklahoma versus Arkansas issue,” says Gould.
“We’ll certainly work hard to focus national attention on this important environmental issue,” cites Gould. “Companies must learn to operate responsibly in Oklahoma’s watersheds,” he added.
“The fact remains, there are simple solutions to the poultry pollution problem, but it will take corporate responsibility on the part of the big companies,” said Reynolds. “The primary focus of our public relations effort is to support national and state legislative moves to protect Oklahoma’s beautiful lakes, rivers and streams by enacting new laws governing application of chicken waste in Oklahoma watersheds and by heightening public awareness on the issue. We want to prevent even further harm from being done by poultry.”
The issue is straightforward. Millions of chicks are raised in sheds throughout Oklahoma and Arkansas. To support their genetically engineered bodies, they are fed a diet rich in phosphorous to strengthen their bones. This, in turn, is excreted as phosphorous-rich feces. Contract growers dump it like fertilizer, where it eventually flows into creeks, lakes, and rivers. Most of the poultry waste simply flows downhill into Oklahoma from Arkansas, polluting the waterways and threatening tourism, Oklahoma’s drinking water, and fishing and recreation activities.
After lengthy discussions with the poultry industry brought about no resolutions, Oklahoma’s Attorney General recently filed suit against Tyson and other growers for polluting the Illinois River with phosphorus from chicken waste. According to the Attorney General’s suit, the waste issue is equivalent to a staggering 10.7 million people living in the watershed, excreting their waste, but without benefit of a wastewater treatment plant. Grand Lake is also the site of a similar lawsuit. The City of Tulsa settled a lawsuit with the poultry companies, known as “integrators” in 2002, requiring a moratorium on the application of chicken waste. That moratorium is no longer in effect and the impact of the poultry waste continues to affect the water quality.
Pollution kills off aquatic life, creates dead zones in the water, and causes taste and odor problems. Pollution, if gone unchecked, can eventually kill lakes, which has happened already in Oklahoma.
“In my opinion, it’s possible for the poultry industry to maintain profitable operations in the area if they responsibly dispose of the tons of feces their farms generate,” said Jim Cameron, TMUA board member. “There are sustainable solutions to deal with the excess chicken litter problem, including trucking it out of the watershed and selling it to farmers, but most come at a price. Tyson and the other big chicken companies have shown they do not want to foot the bill.”
Mayor LaFortune said TMUA’s effort focuses on creating laws in Oklahoma that will force Arkansas poultry companies to find solutions that will curb the pollution of Oklahoma waters.
“Oklahoma is a land overflowing with beautiful lakes, rivers and streams. Now we aim to strengthen laws designed to protect Oklahoma’s greatest natural resources – our once pristine pastureland and waterways,” said Mayor LaFortune.