Clean Water Act Lawsuit Filed

BERLIN – Local green advocacy group Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT) and the national  Waterkeepers Alliance plan to file suit against a Berlin chicken farm and Perdue Farms, Inc. over manure pollution in local waters.

Farm owners Alan and Kristin Hudson, contract growers for Perdue, and Perdue Farms, have been served notice of ACT and the alliance’s intent to file a case in federal court. The organizations will ask for an injunction against more pollution, a clean up order, and fines for every day of violation.

The suit will allege that Hudson Farm has violated the Clean Water Act. The Hudson Farm, which raises 80,000 chickens at one time, is a concentrated animal feed operation (CAFO), which have come under scrutiny in recent years over water pollution by animal manure.

According to ACT and the alliance, water from ditches bordering an uncovered chicken manure pile on Hudson Farm show elevated levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and fecal coliform bacteria. Photographs show runoff from the manure heap reaching ditches, ACT and the alliance contend, which lead to Franklin Branch, then the Pocomoke River and finally Chesapeake Bay. Under Maryland and federal law, any run-off from a manure pile is illegal.

“Unfortunately, what we’re seeing at Hudson Farm – piles of uncovered chicken manure sitting in open fields, alongside drainage ditches that carry pollution to the area’s streams and rivers, and eventually to the bay – is commonplace throughout the Eastern Shore,” said Scott Edwards, director of Advocacy for the Waterkeeper Alliance.

“If you want to find out why the Chesapeake watershed is so polluted, then you don’t need to look any further than this facility and others like it around the Eastern Shore,” said Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Liane Curtis. “It is outrageously irresponsible behavior on the part of industry and a lack of diligent oversight by state officials that continues to put Maryland’s waterways and residents at great risk.”

The Hudsons could not be reached for comment.

Luis Luna, a spokesman for Perdue Farms, said ACT’s news release contained numerous errors.

“As far as we can tell, the material the Waterkeepers refer to in their allegations isn’t even poultry litter … If this is representative of the waterkeepers’ self-described ‘years’ of analysis before making accusations, when what they’re looking at isn’t even poultry manure, then their efforts are sorely misguided,” Luna said.