MCCLAIN COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – Neighbors near a slaughterhouse in McClain County said it has caused a stink.

The Harker Meat Plant off Oklahoma 74 opened about a year ago, and people living in the community said the smell and rising health concerns get worse every day.

They said the smell started coming from mounds of cow byproduct left out in the sun for days.

“It smells like death,” said Mary Brannon, who has lived in the community since 1980. “It’s causing a lot of flies and a terrible smell.”

Residents have also expressed concerns to KFOR about water from the plant’s lagoons and its potential to contaminate the area’s water table.

Mary Brannon, a longtime resident of Goldsby, said the plant sat vacant for many years, but in the months since the new owner moved in, the stench has been overwhelming.

Photo goes with story
Outside the Harker Meat Plant in McClain County.

It’s even drawn the attention of dozens of others in the community, who’ve commented about the terrible smell on social media. One woman said the odor gave her headaches for weeks.

“When things affect your health, it’s a problem,” said Dough Kennon, another concerned neighbor. He said the lagoons located in the back of the plant’s property also impacted his own land.  

“It could be flowing into my ponds or my land. I have somebody that lives out west, and they’re having their water tested.”

We found several ponds below the property and could see water flowing into neighboring waterways.

We obtained documents from the Department of Environmental Quality stating the department did, in fact, determine violations associated with the wastewater lagoon. The report also stated an inspector observed a layer of floating scum on the water. The report went on to say there was a strong rotting odor coming from the property.

The DEQ’s report indicated the discovery did not fall under its jurisdiction, so they turned the complaint over to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. But when KFOR contacted a spokesperson from the ODAFF, they said the department has no jurisdiction with the plant since it was federally inspected and was inaccurately named in the report.

Some members of the community said the town of Goldsby should do more to stop the smell, but the plant is not part of the city. It’s on county land.

“Harker Meat plant is outside of our municipal bounds,” said Adam Vossen, Goldsby Town Administrator.

Vossen told KFOR he has been in contact with a number of state lawmakers to help find a solution.

“We still have citizens in the area that are affected by it, and they are residents of the town of Goldsby, so I feel like it’s our duty to do everything that we possibly can to bring a resolution to the issue,” Vossen said.

KFOR did reach the owner of Harker Meats, Inc. The owner requested we submit written questions for an interview. The company was asked if the plant received any violations on its lagoons. The plant’s controller responded back by saying, “We have been working closely with D-E-Q to ensure our containments are in compliance. Although we have not received any violations at this point, we are moving forward to update and improve the containments.”

However, that’s not what the aforementioned documents by the DEQ showed in its inspection.

The plant also responded to our email, stating by-products at the facility are disposed of at least once a day. But many pictures we obtained from the community showed uncovered, rotting animal carcasses sitting out in the heat for days. Brannon told KFOR she hasn’t gotten any answers from anyone involving the plant and plans to file a civil suit against them.