Saturday, December 12, 2009

Phosphorus pollution

A very interesting court case over phosphorus pollution.

Poultry defense grills witness: A state expert says there's no practical way to ban all sources of phosphorus.

By Susan Hylton, Tulsa World, Okla.

Dec. 11--A defense attorney caused a state's expert to admit that there's not a practical way to ban all sources of phosphorus coming into and polluting the Illinois River watershed.

Nor is there a provision in place that would allow scientists to pinpoint where all the sources of phosphorus are coming from, said Todd King, an environmental engineer, in testimony Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Thursday ended the 12th week of the state's lawsuit against 11 companies including poultry giant Tyson Foods of Springdale, Ark., it blames for polluting the Illinois River watershed with chicken waste.

The ongoing trial picks up again Monday when the state plans to rest after submitting phosphorus soil test samples taken from 50 chicken growers since 1998.

King was hired by the state to prepare a report on remediation alternatives designed to reduce the amount of phosphorus in impaired waters.

Perhaps the most strongly worded recommendation was to cease the application of poultry waste, which the state blames for the poor water quality of the Illinois River, Lake Tenkiller and surrounding rivers and streams. The three main contaminants in poultry waste the report names are phosphorus, bacteria and nitrogen.

According to his report, "Without cessation, the effectiveness of any reasonable remediation action will be compromised and the primary injuries will continue."

Defense attorneys Scott McDaniel and John Tucker spent the morning picking apart King's report, noting mathematical errors, and questioning how thought-out some of King's phosphorus remediation re- commendations are.

King said his report did not look at what effect the remedies, such as banning chicken litter, which is less expensive for farmers to use, would have on the agricultural economy.

One of the most expensive remedies recommended was treating drinking water to address algae and associated disinfection by-products. King said he didn't use Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality records to determine if the facilities actually need an upgrade.

King said there is no established criteria for U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell to use in determining if any of the pollution remedies will solve the problem. He said the goal would be met when Lake Tenkiller is no longer eutrophic, which means it is oxygen deficient due to excessive nutrients.

King described his report as an "identification and evaluation of remediation alternatives in the Illinois River watershed."

Susan Hylton 581-8381


To see more of the Tulsa World, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to

Copyright (c) 2009, Tulsa World, Okla.

No comments: