BALTIMORE (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that Perdue Farms and an Eastern Shore contract grower will not be able to recoup $3 million in legal fees after successfully defending themselves against a poultry pollution suit.

U.S. District Court Judge William M. Nickerson rejected the request for attorneys’ fees in a 17-page opinion released Tuesday. Last year, Nickerson tossed out the Waterkeeper Alliance’s Clean Water Act case, criticizing the environmental group for not conducting adequate sampling to identify the source of pollution found near Alan Hudson’s farm in Berlin, Md. He wrote that the only proven source of discharge was from cow manure from the Hudson’s beef cattle operation.

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In denying the request for lawyers’ fees, Nickerson wrote that the Perdue and the Hudsons could not show that the Waterkeeper Alliance’s lawsuit was “frivolous, unreasonable or without foundation” or that the group continued the lawsuit after it became so, the standard for awarding fees.

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“On behalf of the Hudsons and family farms across Maryland and the country, we are disappointed that the judge chose not to hold the Waterkeepers accountable by making them responsible for the financial costs of their misguided lawsuit,” said Perdue spokeswoman Julie DeYoung in a statement.

Marc Yaggi, executive director for the Waterkeeper Alliance, said “We are pleased with Judge Nickerson’s decision to deny Perdue’s motion to require us to pay millions of dollars in their attorney fees in the case.”

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