TULSA, Okla.-Dangers to human health are “still very real” in the Illinois River watershed because 13 Arkansas-based poultry companies continue to dispose of the bird waste in the river valley, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.

But a poultry industry spokeswoman says bacteria levels in the 1 million-acre watershed are no greater than they are in the state’s other rivers and streams where poultry waste isn’t applied.

“You should understand there is a chance you’re going to get sick, and the sickness you’ll get will be very similar to food poisoning,” Edmondson warned would-be visitors next year to the watershed in an interview with The Associated Press. “That’s what the EPA tells us and that’s what our research tells us.

“The human health effects and dangers are still very real and we remain very concerned about them,” he said.

In September, a federal judge denied Oklahoma’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented the poultry companies from dumping the bird waste in the watershed.

U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell wrote then that Oklahoma “has not yet met its burden of proving that bacteria in the waters of the IRW are caused by the application of poultry litter rather than by other sources, including cattle manure and human septic systems.”

Oklahoma is planning to appeal the ruling to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Edmondson sued the companies in 2005, accusing them of treating Oklahoma’s rivers like open sewers.

Full Story: http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2008/12/09/okla_