After years of costly legal battles, the verdict is in: Waterkeeper Alliance failed to prove that Alan and Kristin Hudson’s chicken houses polluted a nearby tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, according to a report by the Baltimore Sun.
That’s what presiding Judge William N. Nickerson concluded nearly two months after the trial began in early October. In a case that pitted agricultural producers against environmentalists, the court’s decision may finally bring some relief to the Hudsons, who run a family farm located in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region.
Nickerson’s 50-page decision was announced on Thursday and vindicated both the Hudsons and Perdue Farms. Nickerson concluded that Perdue should be "commended, not condemned” for its program to minimize and prevent pollution from their chicken farms.
The decision reverberates far beyond the courtroom. Many of the country’s agriculture producers waited with bated breath. If the Waterkeeper Alliance had been successful, it could have set a harmful precedent for many of the country’s large- and small-scale family farms.
Waterkeeper Alliance said in a statement that it disagrees with the verdict and will review the judge’s opinion to consider a possible appeal.
The Waterkeeper Alliance’s lawsuit dates back to 2009 when another environmental group, the Assateague Coastkeeper, flew a plane over the Hudson's farm and reported what appeared to be a pile of chicken manure draining into a nearby ditch. The material was later confirmed by the Maryland Department of the Environment to be treated sewage sludge from Ocean City, Md., which was used by the farm as fertilizer. Despite the corrected information, the Waterkeeper Alliance proceeded with its lawsuit. Check out the full timeline here.