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Winchester residents worried by meat processing plant moving in

Muscogee Nation meat processing plant
Posted at 10:26 PM, Apr 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-05 11:53:00-04

WINCHESTER, Okla. — A small Green Country community is up in arms after being surprised by a new neighbor moving in.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation said its 25,000 square foot facility would improve its food distribution, but residents in the town said it is only causing them trouble.

"It doesn't seem fair, and it seems like we are David and Goliath," said Mayor Debbie Atkison of Winchester, Okla.

Adkison took her seat as mayor of Winchester in October around the same time the Muscogee (Creek) Nation broke ground on its near $10 million facility.

"The community is pretty much behind the idea that we don't want it here," Adkison said.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation used a portion of its CARES Act funding to build the plant. The tribe aims to provide affordable beef and cattle processing, but Amy Thrower said the wastewater lagoon on the other side of her backyard fence only brings her worry.

READ MORE: Muscogee (Creek) Nation uses CARES Act money for food distribution

"It's definitely not very neighborly," Thrower said.

She noticed the construction out of the blue one fall October day and called Mayor Adkison's office to find out what it was, but she did not know either.

"Once they broke ground on it the community instantly started calling," Adkison said.

They voiced their concerns over health and well-being. The well water town is worried the plant’s wastewater will seep into its ground supply. They are also concerned air-sprayed chemicals could harm their families and livestock.

READ MORE: What 2nd stimulus package entails for Muscogee (Creek) Nation

"I mean, after a year of COVID, I think we all know that is a health risk," Adkison said.

"They're doing what they want," Thrower said. "They haven't slowed down and they haven't spoken to our concerns."

Those concerns were laid out in a January virtual meeting with tribal leadership.

In a statement to 2 Works for You, a Muscogee (Creek) Nation spokesperson said:

"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."
Muscogee Creek Nation

"I don't fell like they were addressed," Thrower said. "I feel like they were dismissed."

And, according to Thrower, shut out.

Adkison told 2 Works for You after the joint meeting, tribal leadership told the City of Winchester's attorney not to contact them again.

"We just want it resolved and we don't want them here," Adkison said.

Adkison said the City of Winchester has a pending lawsuit against the tribe. She said their ultimate goal is to get the plant shut down.

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