NEW FOR THURSDAY: Judge Sides WIth Family In Clean Water Act Lawsuit

BERLIN — After three years of tense legal wrangling, a U.S. District Court judge today issued a ruling in the landmark civil suit filed against a Berlin farm family and Perdue over alleged pollution violations dating back to 2009, siding with the defendants Alan Hudson and Perdue and against the independent environmental watchdog group.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">

In March 2010, the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, along with the Assateague Coastal Trust and the Assateague Coastkeeper, filed suit in U.S. District Court against Perdue and Berlin’s Hudson Farm, a contract factory farm operation of about 80,000 birds. The suit was filed after sampling in ditches adjacent to the property allegedly revealed high levels of harmful fecal coliform and E. coli in concentrations that exceed state limits.

After months and months of legal posturing, the case went to trial in October and concluded after 10 days of testimony by both sides. Closing arguments were heard in early December and U.S. District Court Judge William Nickerson reserved final judgment to review the facts.

On Thursday morning, Nickerson issued his ruling in the case, siding in favor of the defendants Alan Hudson and Perdue and against the Waterkeeper Alliance.

“It is hereby ordered that judgment is entered in favor of defendants Alan Hudson and Perdue Farms Inc. and against plaintiff Waterkeeper Alliance Inc.,” the judge’s ruling reads. “It is also ordered that any and all prior rulings made by this court disposing of any claims against any parties shall be deemed a final judgment and that this action is hereby closed.”

For a complete report on the judge’s ruling in the landmark case, see Friday’s print and on-line editions of The Dispatch.