States Not On The Same Page For Poultry Waste ReportsThu, 15 Dec 2011 15:17:43 CST
Arkansas and Oklahoma poultry farms in the Illinois River watershed produced more than 417,000 tons of waste in 2010, an amount equal to 23,000 large trucks of phosphorus-rich manure and poultry house bedding material that is used as fertilizer. The exact amount of chicken waste transferred out of the nutrient impaired watershed is unclear due to differences in reporting by the states. The figures are contained in reports requested by Save the Illinois River, Inc., (STIR) from the Arkansas Natural Resource Commission (ANRC) and the Oklahoma Conservation Commission (OCC).
Poultry waste is at the center of a federal court lawsuit filed by Oklahoma in 2005 naming the Arkansas poultry industry of polluting the Illinois River and Tenkiller Lake with bacteria and the nutrient phosphorus. Testimony in the suit indicated that, at most, about 19-percent of chicken waste is transported out of the watershed. Phosphorus degrades water quality and aesthetic values of streams and lakes. Some algae produced by excess phosphorus are toxic posing a danger to humans and livestock. A ruling in the suit is pending.
Approximately two-percent of the 344,000 tons of poultry litter produced in the Illinois River watershed in Arkansas, approximately 8,000 tons, was listed as being removed from a nutrient surplus area (NSA) which would include the Illinois River watershed. All of the litter was reported to have come from Benton County with Washington Country showing no transfer of litter into or out of a NSA. However, the ANRC shows more than 103,000 tons of waste as transferred from Washington County. Nearly 277,000 tons of poultry waste was reported by ANRC as "transferred" from both counties.
Patrick Fisk, program manager for the ANRC said poultry litter is difficult to track because of litter transfer programs. He defined transfer as "Litter that has been moved off the farm (sold) and is no longer under the control of the grower and most growers do not know where the litter is going. Litter could be sent out of the watershed or down the road a few miles."
Arkansas depends on poultry growers for its data. Oklahoma relies on certified poultry litter applicators for data and does not report the volume of waste transferred out of the three Oklahoma counties in the Illinois River watershed. In those counties, more than 73,000 tons of poultry waste was produced with nearly 55,000 tons spread on fields in 2010 according to the OCC. The report does not explain where excess litter was taken. While Arkansas reports the amount of litter that is stored, in house, and surplus, Oklahoma does not report those categories.
Since Oklahoma's poultry lawsuit was filed, the industry has accelerated the removal of waste from the Illinois River watershed. An industry organization, BMPs, reported that more than 82,000 tons of waste was removed from the watershed in 2010, approximately 50,500 tons from Arkansas and 31,700 tons from Oklahoma. Approximately 41,000 tons has been removed in the first six-months of this year according to BMPs.
The majority poultry production in the Illinois River watershed is in Delaware County which had 160 registered farms with nearly 13-million birds. Adair County was second in production with 51 farms producing 5.9-million birds. Cherokee County reported 11 farms producing over 777,000 birds. More than 1,000 poultry houses on 532 reported farms having 40- million birds in were reported in the two counties in Arkansas' part of the Illinois River watershed.
Broiler chicken litter contains 55 pounds of phosphorus per ton according to BMPs. Using that number, nearly 11,000 tons of phosphorus was produced in the Illinois River watershed last year. Scientists say accumulated phosphorus in soils in the watershed may continue to enter streams and lakes for decades providing a legacy of phosphorus from poultry waste.
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