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Maryland farmer claims lawsuit made him paranoid

A Maryland poultry farmer at the center of a 2010 lawsuit said the case has caused undue stress for his family and left him with severe paranoia. "It's been extremely hard on me and my wife, but it's been even harder on my children," he explained, noting that the effects of the business litigation has necessitated counseling for his 8-year-old daughter and made his 6-year-old son concerned about losing the family home.

An environmental group known as the Waterkeeper Alliance sued the man and his employer, Maryland based poultry farming company Perdue, for allegedly polluting a river close to the man's farm. The plaintiff named Perdue as a co-defendant because it owns and regularly monitors the farmer's chickens. The defendants' attorneys stress that there is no evidence of pollution near the farm. They also argue that the farmer uses practices that are common in the poultry business, meaning that any sign of pollution would likely have disastrous effects on the industry.

The Waterkeeper Alliance filed a lawsuit after reportedly finding high levels of bacteria in the river, initially suspecting it was a product of what the group identified as chicken manure during a 2009 flyover. While this theory was disproved, the Waterkeeper Alliance maintains that ventilation fans and other factors are allowing chicken waste to contaminate the water. The defendant argued that he takes proper steps to control the spread of his chickens' manure, explaining that it is valuable and can be traded or sold to other farmers.

The farmer did acknowledge that he signed documents which suggest the water has a pollution problem, doing so in order to secure financial assistance allowing him to purchase concrete slabs near his chicken house. His attorneys have conceded that some manure may be getting into the river, but not in nearly large enough quantities to cause significant pollution.

Source: Business Week, "Farmer: Md. poultry lawsuit stressed out family," Jessica Gresko, Oct. 18, 2012

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