Oklahoma Town To Sue Muscogee Nation Over Environmental Concerns

Wednesday, May 12th 2021, 5:15 pm
By: Jonathan Cooper

WINCHESTER, Oklahoma -

In the small town of Winchester, Oklahoma, just south of Glenpool off of Highway 75, a legal battle is brewing.

"I don't know anybody that wants to live next to a slaughterhouse," said Debbie Adkison, the town’s mayor.

The town of about 500, and some who live in it, are planning to file a federal lawsuit against the Muscogee Nation.

Their goal is to stop the tribe from building a 25,000 square foot meat processing facility and nearby wastewater lagoon that has a spray irrigation system. Environmental attorney David Page is representing the town.

"It will pollute the air,” said Page. “It'll pollute the groundwater and it'll pollute the surface water and the soils."

Page says this all started last fall when they read in the paper that the Muscogee Nation planned to use CARES act funding to build the facility on property they own along Highway 75, within the city limits of Winchester. Construction shortly followed. The problem though, Page says, is the tribe is violating state laws by not getting a permit and building it in a residentially zoned area.

"They believe that they are sovereign and they're not subject to any state laws,” said Page.

Page says the tribe also failed to get a federal EPA permit and the project will violate the Clean Water Act.

"So I've kind of started thinking that they believe they can do whatever they want, within the United States," said Page.

Page says his concern is what this means for the people and animals who live nearby. People like Amy Thrower, who is a part of the lawsuit.

"I don't see how you can do this and think you're a good neighbor,” said Thrower. “We have concerns about ourselves and our animals."

Thrower's 40 acres of cattle and horses back up to the property.

She's concerned about waste next door being shot into the air on windy days.

"They're going to land apply it,” said Thrower. “It’s an aerated lagoon. They're going to be shooting up their wastewater into the air and then applying it."

Thrower says she's also worried about a creek that runs through their property and is right next to the plant.

She's also worried about dangerous chemicals.

"We have a very high water table and we use water well for ourselves and our animals so this is our water source," said Thrower.

We reached out several times to the Muscogee Nation who declined an on-camera interview.

They did however send us a full statement:

"The Muscogee Nation strives to be good neighbors. Recently some neighbors from the community of Winchester reached out with concerns regarding the Meat Processing Facility and potential environmental impacts related to construction and operation. We took these concerns seriously and met with our neighbors and their representatives. During the meeting, our experts provided information and illustrated features and decisions that were made in coordination with the Nation's Environmental Services Office to meet all compliance and regulatory conditions. Despite our efforts, it seems as though we were unable to assuage their concerns. The Muscogee Nation is a proven environmental steward and historically has stood with communities against bad actors across the Reservation. We have the utmost respect for our environment and the future of all Oklahomans. This project's design reflects that, and we stand behind its quality."

Page says the lawsuit will be filed in the Eastern District of Oklahoma and they're asking for an injunction to stop it.