Clean Water Act Lawsuit Filed

BERLIN – The Waterkeeper Alliance officially filed a lawsuit against a local chicken farm this week after seeing little improvement in pollution emanating from the property over the two-month waiting period.

Defendants Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm and Perdue face penalties of up to $3,500 per day, according to the lawsuit filed by the Waterkeeper Alliance and Assateague Coastal Trust Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips, under the Clean Water Act.

The plaintiffs said this week they have seen little improvement in high levels of pollutants in water samples taken from a ditch receiving run-off from the confined animal feeding operation on the Hudson Farm, which handles Perdue chickens.

“I want to be very clear. Hudson Farm and Perdue had ample opportunity to stop the pollution that puts state residents and the waterways of Maryland at great risk and they have chosen to ignore this reasonable approach,” said Phillips.

The ditch water has repeatedly yielded high levels of fecal coliform and e. coli bacteria, as much as 1,000 times the legally allowed amount. These bacteria render water unsafe for swimming and drinking, as well as contaminating shellfish and rendering them inedible. The samples also show high levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and arsenic, harmful to aquatic life. The run-off ditch in question leads to the impaired Pocomoke River, which in turn empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

Perdue is named as a co-defendant because, the lawsuit contends, the Hudson Farm is merely taking care of the chickens, but does not own them. Perdue completely controls the entire chicken raising process, according to the lawsuit, including the food given, and all care and handling.

“I want to stress that this is not an anti-farm or anti-agriculture move on the part of our organization. In fact, to the contrary, we support responsible farmers and agricultural organizations that share our very reasonable concerns about the need to preserve the bay and other waterways for this and future generations,” Phillips said.

Scott Edwards, director of advocacy for the Waterkeeper Alliance, said the entire farm, not just a single pile of waste, is the source of the pollution found in the water samples.

“We have no indication that these pollutants are tied to any one pile on the farm…our focus is on the entire production area …,” Edwards said.

Much attention has been focused on a pile of material originally adjacent to the ditch. That pile has been moved since the notice of intent was sent.

“We’re still seeing high levels of pollution …,” Edwards said. “What we’re seeing is irresponsible waste management practices.”