A lawsuit could be filed before summer wraps up over plans to build a new poultry plant in Northeast Arkansas.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Arkansas Rights Koalition (ARK) have sent a letter to the Farm Service Agency, the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying they'll file suit within 60 days, over a $1 million SBA loan to build the Tracy Poultry Project. It includes six large broiler-chicken houses in the Strawberry River Watershed.
Attorney Jessica Blome with the Animal Legal Defense Fund says factory farm waste poses a health threat to local endangered species.
"We're talking about a lot of poultry litter, and that's the main problem,' she explains. "The poultry litter is what is toxic to the environment. And that is over-applied or over-spread on fields as fertilizer. It can discharge or drain into these waterways and then, start killing off these protected species."
Blome says seven species in the area are listed as threatened or endangered, including three types of mussels, three species of bats, and a wildflower - the Missouri bladderpod.
Blome says the Animal Legal Defense Fund hopes the letter of intent is enough to get the attention of the federal government, but the fund is prepared to go to court.
Alabama-based Peco Foods says the plant would create 1,000 jobs.
Blome says clearing land for industrial animal agricultural operations destroys or degrades wildlife habitat, and can cause erosion and create fertilizer and nutrient runoff.
She adds contaminants associated with these large-scale operations can be potentially toxic to species.
"We've seen a rapid decline, over just in the last couple of decades, of several species of freshwater invertebrates, including mussels and other types of fish and insects," she points out.
Blome adds the chicken operation is one of almost 600 that could be built in northeast Arkansas, and says that many plants could emit more than 700,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually.
The boom is projected to support Peco Foods' new poultry-processing facility in Pocahontas.