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[Archived] Oklahoma asks DNR to hold off on Moark permit

| Oklahoma Scenic Rivers | January 03, 2014

The state of Oklahoma is asking the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to hold off on approving Moark's permit to expand its facilities in Neosho, Anderson and Jasper County..."Neosho Daily News" 

Oklahoma asks DNR to hold off on Moark permit

By JOHN FORD / Neosho (MO) Daily News Associate Editor


The state of Oklahoma is asking the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to hold off on approving Moark's permit to expand its facilities in Neosho, Anderson and Jasper County.

In a June 17 letter to Peter Goode, chief of permits and engineering section of the DNR's water protection program, Miles Tolbert, Oklahoma's secretary of the environment, asked that no permits be issued until several questions are answered.

Among Tolbert's concerns are:

Does the Elk River TMDL (total maximum daily load) include the nutrient loading from litter application associated with these permits?

Waste disposal sites associated with the permits have not been identified and sent to the state of Oklahoma for review;

A provision of the permit application states chicken litter will be land applied either north of the Spring River in Missouri or in Kansas and Oklahoma. The permit application should contain a condition requiring all poultry waste transported to Oklahoma be disposed of in compliance with Oklahoma laws as well as provisions of the Oklahoma department of Agriculture, Forestry and Food;

There are no provisions listed in the permit application as to how Moark will protect water quality standards for the Elk River, as required under a 1992 ruling made in Arkansas vs. Oklahoma;

DNR records indicate that Moark has "consistently violated the terms and conditions of their existing permits. What assurances are there that the proposed permits will not just be a continuation of past problems and an undocumented source of additional nutrient loads to an already sensitive area?"

"Without the location of the potential waste sites, the state of Oklahoma cannot realistically assess the potential environmental impacts of the draft permits at this time," Tolbert wrote. "As a result of this omission, and the fact that the state did not receive adequate notification for the proposed permits, we are requesting the location of all disposal sites be forwarded for our review and that the notice be reissued."

J.D. Strong, chief of staff for the Oklahoma Office to the Secretary of the Environment, said one of the agency's key concerns was that it had no notification of the permit application. He said all documents they received have been those issued to the general public, adding that they normally receive more detailed documentation.

"Typically, it's a lot more information than you see in the public notice," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "All we've gotten so far is the public notice."

Another major concern was the lack of details on where Moark plans on applying litter.

"This may involve regulatory responsibility, which is not a condition in that permit right now," Strong said. "It will be in our jurisdiction if they are applying litter in Oklahoma."

Strong said many streams in northern Oklahoma were impaired, with both the Spring and Elk rivers flowing into the Fort Gibson Reservoir, which is designated as being nutrient limited by Oklahoma water quality standards. This actually means the waters have high nutrient levels, which can result in algae blooms, which in turn deplete oxygen levels in the water. Fish kills often result from depleted oxygen levels.

Because the streams have been listed as impaired, several conditions ensuring that the company comply with Oklahoma laws and regulations of the ODAFF should be included in the permit application, Tolbert wrote. Among these are:

Submitting a list of sites to the state and gaining ODAFF approval before waste is land applied;

Having the waste applied by a person licensed under the provisions of Oklahoma's Poultry Waste Applicators Certification Act;

Requiring landowners who accept chicken litter from Moark to have the waste applied according to a conservation plan, available from the property owner's county NRCS office;

Litter generated by this facility should be land applied at a rate not to exceed state standards;

Testing litter for biological oxygen demand and total suspended solids, as well as other parameters, prior to land application. These tests must be done in addition to those set forth in the permit;

The Oklahoma-licensed waste applicator must submit a detailed report to ODAFF.

In his letter, Tolbert indicated that not notifying Oklahoma regulators or other state agencies could constitute a violation of the federal water pollution control act. But Strong said Tuesday that the lack of notification was perhaps an oversight on the part of the DNR.

"In the past, we have had good relations with the state of Missouri," Strong said. "We've always had a good cooperative effort. I don't think they would intentionally try to keep the state of Oklahoma out."

Kerry Cordray, the DNR's information officer for water protection and soil conservation, said in an Associated Press article he could not yet respond to Tolbert's letter, adding the agency would respond to call comments it received about the Moark expansion by letter.

Moark is seeking to build 13 chicken houses over three years at the facility's Hathaway Farms site, located just east of Neosho. Nearly 40 existing buildings would be phased out. According to Moark Midwestern Division Manager Dan Hudgens, between 800,000 and 1.1 million more chickens will be brought in as a result of the expansion.

The plan has drawn local critics. Area residents opposed to the expansion plan have gathered 2,500 signatures on a petition asking it not be approved. Other opponents to the plan include the Crowder College Board of Trustees.

Doyle Childers, DNR director, is expected to meet with opponents on July 20 at Crowder College to hear their concerns. The DNR is expected to make a decision on the plans by summer's end.