On July 21, a federal court denied a motion by Perdue Chicken to dismiss a case brought against it for polluting the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The School of Law's Environmental Law Clinic, acting as counsel for the Assateague Coastkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a citizen lawsuit in March under the Clean Water Act in the federal District Court of Maryland, against Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm — a Perdue-contract chicken factory farm in Berlin, MD — and Perdue Farms, Inc., alleging illegal discharges of harmful pollution into the Franklin Branch of the Pocomoke River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
The Clinic contends that Perdue is liable for this pollution as an "integrator," or party "which (is)responsible for or control(s) the performance of work" at a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) under federal regulations. The defendants moved for dismissal on multiple grounds, including that Perdue did not own the farm where the pollution came from nor was it on the Clean Water Act discharge permit required for CAFO's. Judge William M. Nickerson agreed with the plaintiff and ruled that Perdue may be held liable for the pollution emanating from Hudson Farms as an integrator. As a result, the suit will move forward against both the chicken manufacturer and Perdue. This is the first case of integrator liability under the Clean Water Act brought in federal court in the United States.
"We're very eager to see this case move forward in the coming months," said Jane Barrett, Director of the Clinic. "We are confident that discovery will show just how much this industry controls the day-to-day operations of the so-called contract growers."
The filing of the litigation followed a failure by Hudson Farm and Perdue to correct the violations during the 60-day period after a notice of intent to sue was filed in 2009. The Court's decision means that the case will continue to its next phase of litigation.