BYLINE: By Ben Smith III STAFF WRITER
PUBLICATION: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution
A Stockbridge farmer said he believes 61 of his cows died as a result of eating toxic hay.
So H.J. Peterson is suing DeKalb County, which fertilized the hay with sewage sludge, and the company that sold it to him, for $150,000, claiming "extreme mental anguish and pain," as well as the loss of his livelihood.
"It got to where I couldn't go in the barn," said Peterson, before referring a reporters questions to his lawyer. "I'd think, 'How many dead cows am I going to find today?' "
In a suit filed in Fulton County state court last month, Peterson alleges that 61 of his cows died, another 35 had "spontaneous abortions," and 14 were rendered infertile after feeding on hay supplied by Operations Management International Inc. in 1993.
The hay was fertilized by sludge, a by-product of wastewater treatment, from DeKalb County's Pole Bridge Creek Wastewater Treatment plant on Browns Mill Road, according to the suit.
Sludge is often recycled into fertilizer.
OMI officials could not be reached for comment despite telephone calls to the firm's offices. DeKalb County District Attorney Jonathan Weintraub found no merit in Peterson's lawsuit.
"We don't have any part in this at all," said Weintraub, who added that "a number of things" other than the county's sludge could have killed Peterson's cows.
Peterson contends that excessive levels of "nitrate toxicity" in the hay he purchased in late 1993 resulted in the bovine deaths, miscarriages and subsequent infertility problems with his herd the following year.
Peterson's attorney, Ben Studdard, was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Before refusing to discuss the matter further outside Studdard's presence, Peterson said that before he filed his suit he had complained to OMI and to the county about the decimation of his herd.
"They just laughed at me like I was a dummy," said Peterson.
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