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Defense: Local Cows, Not Perdue Chickens To Blame For Polluting Md. Streams

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Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Environmentalists may be targeting poultry giant Perdue, but they’re doing it by going after one small farm.

Alex DeMetrick reports it could be a precedent-setting federal trial, with manure in the middle of it.

Federal court in Baltimore is a long way from Alan Hudson’s farm on the Eastern Shore, but for the past few weeks he’s been a co-defendant, along with Perdue Farms, in a lawsuit alleging the chickens he raises for Perdue have polluted waterways.

Prove that, and environmentalists believe they have a shot at Perdue as a polluter.

“It’s Perdue that’s responsible for the operations it’s profiting from,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food and Water Watch.

It all revolves around the nutrients that wash off farm fields into streams and eventually the bay.

Nutrients like nitrogen feed algae blooms that create oxygen starved dead zones.

The suit alleges Hudson’s chicken manure, which contains nitrogen, polluted a nearby stream.

But those being sued brought an expert witness to the stand who testified another animal is to blame: cows.

A Virginia Tech microbiologist told the judge he believes the Hudson’s cows, not chickens, are to blame.

One animal is capable of 60 to 80 pounds of manure a day.

The Hudsons have 40 animals, meaning 600 tons of manure a year deposited on open fields.

That’s far more than would blow out of the farm’s chicken houses.

“The community is concerned about this litigation and the impact it could have on the poultry industry, so we came here today to support the Hudsons,” said Buddy Hance, Maryland Secretary of Agriculture.

It’s now up to a judge to decide which manure is to blame.

Chickens: environmentalists win. Cows: Hudson and Perdue win.

The federal lawsuit has entered its third week of testimony. It is expected to end late Tuesday or Wednesday.

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