Attorney General claims poultry litter likely caused E. coli outbreak
BY World Capitol Bureau
Friday, February 13, 2009
2/13/09 at 4:09 PM
Complete coverage: Read all the stories related to the E. Coli outbreak and search a database of state restaurant inspections.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Poultry litter was likely the cause of an E. coli 0111 outbreak in August at Country Cottage in Locust Grove, said Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson on Friday.
The outbreak left Chad Ingle of Pryor dead and 300 ill.
Edmondson said that based on an investigation by his environmental protection unit, it appears that poultry litter spread as fertilizer made its way into the well the restaurant had been using.
Edmondson said it is "highly likely" the well was the source of the contamination. But he said he is not prepared to say that is the case "beyond a reasonable doubt."
He said human or other animal contamination in the well had been ruled out.
He said poultry houses engaged in land application of waste were within a quarter of a mile from the well.
He said he had no idea if the conclusions of his office would have any bearing on his suit against several poultry companies.
Edmondson has alleged the spreading of poultry litter has polluted the Illinois River watershed.
A spokesman for one of the poultry companies named in Edmondson’s lawsuit said the attorney general had “just added to his record of making unsubstantiated claims” and was “desperate to win or settle a lawsuit that should never have been brought.”
“There has never been a single documented instance of a water-borne bacteriological disease being caused by the use of poultry litter,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in a prepared statement. “We have not seen any sampling results and no one with the state of Oklahoma has contacted us about the situation in Locust Grove. In addition, we believe it's simply irresponsible for Mr. Edmondson to make such speculative claims about the Locust Grove matter before the investigation has even been completed.”
The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday and Thursday will be in Locust Grove to conduct free inspections and water sampling on private wells. The agency will test for bacteria in private wells within a five-mile radius of Locust Grove.
Residents with private wells who are interested in testing can call a 24-hour hotline by the close of business on Monday. The number is (800) 522-0206.
Up to 7,000 tons of poultry litter is generated annually within that area, said Dan Lennington, a attorney with Edmondson's Environmental Protection Unit.
For more on this story, read Saturday's Tulsa World.
Attorney General Drew Edmondson holds a press conference regarding dangers to watershed from poultry litter runoff. DARYL WILSON/Tulsa World