A fast-moving, but emotional civil trial pitting environmentalists against family farmers could end in the next day or two with a ruling by U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson in Baltimore.
At issue is whether common practices for handling chicken manure violate the federal Clean Water Act.
The trial, which Judge Nickerson is hearing without a jury, is expected to wrap-up today or tomorrow after the defense rests. It began two weeks ago.
Hudson was asked about how the lawsuit against his farm and Perdue Inc., has traumatized his children because they now fear losing the only home they’ve ever known.
The farm had not contracted with Perdue Inc.to raise chickens until Hudson got into the business when he was 19. The farm’s poultry operation has never faced a government charge of discharging pollutants.
The sole remaining plaintiff, New York City-based Waterkeepers Alliance has already presented its case.
Bruce A. Bell, an environmental engineer and expert witness in water pollution cases, testified that the Hudson chicken operations would “most likely” be a contributor to water pollution.
Bell also said dried particles on fans used to vent the chicken houses could also be a specific source. Hudson said the dried particles Bell was concerned about are too light to be chicken manure.
The civil case has been controversial from the beginning, especially after environmentalists claimed a pile of material they observed from the air was chicken manure and filed the lawsuit.
That pile, however, was found to consist of bio-soils for a project with a nearby town. Except for Waterkeepers, all of the other original plaintiffs were removed from the case for lack of credibility.
Also, there have been many objections to the University of Maryland’s environmental law clinic representing the environmental side of the case against one of the state’s oldest family farms.
In a pretrial memo to the attorneys, Nickerson outlined how he could go either way with his ruling. The memo, however, did not spur a pretrial settlement.© Food Safety News