Tonganoxie residents, Erin Brockovich come together in fight aga - KCTV5

Tonganoxie residents, Erin Brockovich come together in fight against new Tyson plant

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Lawrence native Erin Brockovich is joining the fight against a new Tyson Foods plant in Tonganoxie.

Brockovich became famous for fighting a company that poisoned groundwater. Now she's speaking out against Tyson's plans to break ground on a poultry plant in Tonganoxie

Families who oppose the project contacted Brockovich. She responded by posting this to Tyson Foods:

"Clean up your act if you want respect. Get off the list of our nation's biggest polluters and then come talk to us. Until then, you cannot continue to grow on the backs of the people."

KCTV5 News talked to families who are petitioning and hoping their grassroots effort will stop the project before construction begins.

Opponents are circulating a petition asking elected officials to stop the poultry complex from coming to Leavenworth County.

They are hanging signs around town that say, "No Tyson in Tongie."

As Deborah K. Skeet swayed on a swing in her front yard off 222nd Street, she said she was filled with worry. 

"It's heartbreaking,” she said. “It really is heartbreaking."

The recently announced Tyson plant could be built right across the street from her family's property.

They've lived there and farmed the land for more than 40 years.

"I think it's going to ruin Tonganoxie as we know it now,” she said. “That's why I'm sitting here now enjoying the beautiful trees."

Her family plans to put up a fight. They've voiced their opposition to city and county leaders.

Her son, Steve Skeet, is collecting petition signatures at his real estate office.

“Made as many copies as I could,” he said. “We've had a steady stream of citizens coming in.”

“I've been fielding 15 to 20 calls a day,” he said. “’Should we sell?’ ‘What is my house worth?’ I'm trying to tell everyone not to panic.”

Instead of panicking, many in Tonganoxie are planning an organized opposition.

At the Downtown Drug Store, they've collected dozens more petition signatures.

Another Tyson plant opponent's truck is filled with 600 "No Tyson in Tongie" yard signs that will be placed around town.

"We are in the latter years of our lives,” Deborah Skeet said. “We planned on living here until our days are over. I don't know if we can stop it. We are certainly going to try.” 

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced the project on Tuesday.

After attending packed city and county meetings filled with opponents of the plant, KCTV5 News asked Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for a response. His written statement said:

“The Governor continues to encourage residents who oppose the hatchery to attend the town halls and submit public comment during the state permitting process. Community input is an important aspect of working together to resolve concerns."

The governor added that Tyson Foods will be held to state safety and environmental standards.

Supporters say the Tyson plant will bring 1,600 jobs and generate a direct annual economic benefit to the state of Kansas of $150 million.

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