Iowa Turkey Federation spokeswoman Gretta Irwin was in Postville Sunday to view the fire damage that destroyed the Iowa Turkey Processors plant Saturday. Irwin says Iowa ranks fifth in the U.S. in turkey processing. The Postville plant was the nation’s 18th-largest turkey processing plant, and she says its loss is “a large hit to the Iowa turkey industry” and the Iowa economy. Irwin says turkey farmers who had contracts to deliver birds to the plant will be working with plant managers to make other arrangements. She says the other three turkey processing plants in Iowa have indicated they’re willing to help out. Sara Lee owns a turkey processing plant in Storm Lake. West Liberty Foods is owned by the Iowa Turkey Growers Cooperative and Agriprocessors is the kosher meatpacking plant that’s also located in Postville, right across the railroad tracks from the burned turkey plant. Irwin says turkey growers own the Postville plant, which opened for business in December of 1972. Irwin says the farmer-ownership of the plant made it unique in the United States and the loss of the facility is a “huge loss to the Iowa Turkey family,” according to Irwin, and she says they’ll all pull together. Irwin, however, says the owners of the Postville plant haven’t decided whether to rebuild yet. Clark Ott, an environmental specialist with the Department of Natural Resources, has been on site today. Ott says their first concern was the water runoff from the fire fight, but it looks like the lagoons around the plant absorbed most of it. Ott visited with plant managers to make sure that when the burned-out building is demolished, they dispose of the asbestos properly. In addition, there are some frozen turkeys that will be a problem if it warms up and Ott says plant officials plan to truck the birds to the landfill.
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