U.S. Congressman Markwayne Mullen (District 2) told Delaware County residents they may have no choice but to seek legal recourse against companies hatching poultry operations in Delaware county and the surrounding areas.
“You have to take care of your property,” Mullen told the crowd of around 75 residents who gathered at the Kansas High School gymnasium for the Friday, Sept. 21 meeting.
A frustrated Mullen told the crowd that he is “one of them” in the fight against the influx of poultry houses popping up in clusters, primarily in Delaware, Mayes and Adair counties.
Mullen lives in rural Adair County. He said there is a poultry operation located near his property.
“I live out in the country,” Mullen said. “I can smell it (poultry house odor) on certain days.”
Mullen said around 190 poultry houses were built in Adair and Delaware counties last year.
Many Delaware County residents have appeared and spoke at Delaware County Commissioners meetings complaining and pleading for relief saying the poultry operations are draining their wells, leaving them with bad water quality, unbearable odor and the poultry houses being an eyesore.
Several lawsuits with complaints of water, soil and air pollution have been filed by residents and the City of Tulsa against the Missouri and Arkansas based poultry companies, Simmons Industries, Tyson Foods and Peterson Farms since 2000.
Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese, Agricultural Environmental Management Services Director Jeremy Seiger, Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill and Grand River Dam Authority Vice President of Scenic Rivers and Water Quality Ed Fite also addressed the crowd.
The poultry companies pay around $141 million in state and local taxes, Mullen said.
‘It’s not about paying taxes, it’s about what they (poultry) companies are doing to our property values,” Mullen said.
Reese addressed the crowd about the recent formation of the Coordinating Council on Poultry Growth between the state and Cherokee Nation.
“We will have all sectors of the community and industry,” Reese said. “We will all sit down and talk about the issues and work through this peacefully.”
Several members of the audience expressed they wanted “real solutions now” rather than study the issue for years and then come up with a solution.
“What is our community going to look like,” asked one woman.
Another woman urged for the county to have building permits.
When asked what Mullin could do as a congressman, he responded, “if there is something we can do, we will.”
“This isn’t about the right or the left,” Mullen said referring to political leanings. “It’s about community – this is about our backyard.”