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Embattled Farm Refused To Let MDE Gather Samples

Despite the refusal of the Hudson Farm owner to allow a state agency to take samples of potentially polluting materials from his land, the state says it still has a case for enforcement action against the chicken farm.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), despite sending inspectors to alleged polluter Hudson Farm, has been refused access to the farm to sample materials, which may have sent high levels of fecal coliform and e. coli bacteria and other pollutants into a local ditch that ultimately drains to the Chesapeake Bay.

MDE spokesperson Dawn Stoltzfus said Thursday that the agency has enough evidence, from visual inspections and photographs, to take enforcement action against Hudson Farm for polluting without the samples sought.

"If it's warranted to take an enforcement action, we can take it without those samples," Stoltzfus said.

However, Stoltzfus did say MDE plans to sample and test the materials stored on site as well as the ditch water.

After four refusals to allow MDE inspectors onsite, late last week MDE offered Hudson one last chance to allow inspectors on the farm.

"We did send a letter to the farm, saying here are the laws that give us the legal authority to sample," said Stoltzfus. "The next step is to get the courts involved and get a warrant."

This is not the first time MDE has been forced to seek a search warrant to access private property that by law they have the authority to visit and test.

"Inspectors go out by themselves. We don't want to put them into any situation where things are hostile or they feel unsafe," Stoltzfus said.

Inspectors did not experience any such problems with the Hudsons, she added. However, the Hudsons do appear to be violating the law in not permitting MDE to take samples.

Maryland sewage sludge laws specifically give MDE the right to access property to enforce those laws, and property owners cannot deny access or interfere with an inspection, under section 9-243 of the Environment Article.
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