OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. — The State of Oklahoma received a favorable ruling on Jan. 18 for a longstanding case over environmental damage to the state’s water by poultry companies, especially the Illinois River watershed and Lake Tenkiller. 

US District Judge Gregory Frizzell in the Northern District of Oklahoma stated in his decision that he agreed with Oklahoma’s arguments of trespassing and public nuisance-related claims regarding several poultry companies that operated in Oklahoma. 

“The court concludes all defendants, by their conduct, have unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to the use and enjoyment of the waters of the IRW in Oklahoma,” Frizzell said in his decision.

The case was brought on by Oklahoma in 2005 by then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson regarding improper poultry litter disposal.

Current Attorney General Gentner Drummond touted the decision following 18 years of litigation. 

“This is a great and historic day for Oklahoma,” Drummond said. “While this decision has been a long time coming, it is important to note that in the intervening years since the filing of the suit, the poultry industry has made, or is willing to make, strong improvements in waste disposal to ameliorate the extent of the problem. Oklahoma has amazing natural resources that deserve our vigilant protection. We will thoroughly review the judge’s decision and determine the appropriate path forward.”

Poultry companies in the latest decision include Tyson Foods Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc., Cargill Inc., George’s Farms Inc., Peterson Farms Inc. and Simmons Foods Inc. along with other subsidiaries working in Oklahoma.

Judge Frizzell added that parties need to meet and attempt to reach an agreement by March 17, 2023. If that does not happen, Frizzell plans to render a judgment on the remedies.