A HISTORIC court judgement made in the US last week could have implications for the River Wye.

A judge in Oklahoma ruled that Cargill Inc – the parent company of Hereford-based chicken supplier Avara – polluted the Illinois River by spreading chicken manure on land so that it then leached into the river’s watershed.

The court concluded that poultry waste is the principal contributor of the phosphorus causing injuries to the waters and that the Illinois River’s once “crystal clear” waters are now cloudy as a result.

The same damage is being done to the Wye in Herefordshire, claims a pressure group.

The US ruling comes 13 years after the trial ended in 2009, and Friends of the Wye Monmouth spokesman Mike Dunsbee said: “It is now clear that Avara-Cargill have known for years that they are destroying the Wye and have pretended otherwise to protect their profits.

“We at Friends of the Lower Wye & Save The Wye believe that Avara’s behaviour towards our precious river is completely indefensible. It is time that Avara committed to paying to restore the Wye as a matter of urgency.

“The familiar principle of ‘the polluter pays’ should apply here just as it does in America.”

Cargill now has two months to agree a plan with the state of Oklahoma on how to remedy the pollution’s effects, which includes low oxygen levels in the river, algae growth and damage to the fish population. The same should be happening here in Monmouthshire,” said Mike. “The first simple step to take is to stop spreading manure in the Wye catchment.

“Then Avara-Cargill should be open and honest with the people of Monmouthshire and agree a restoration plan for the Wye.

“Last year Avara’s parent company Cargill reported profits of almost $5 billion, the biggest in its 157-year history, so they can well afford to clean up their act and pay for the pollution they have caused.”

Avara has pledged that its supply chain will not contribute to excess phosphate in the River Wye by 2025. Two million chickens are processed at its factory in Hereford every week and it is the county’s largest employer.

It says it is aiming to increase the amount of chicken muck sent out of the area and processed by digesters to 600 tonnes a week.