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New York Racing Association (NYRA) Clean Water Act Settlement

(WASHINGTON, D.C. - September 30, 2016) - Robert L. Capers, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Judith A. Enck, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, announced today the filing of a complaint against The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) as well as the lodging of a consent decree to resolve the allegations in the complaint.

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The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is a not-for-profit corporation that operates the Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, New York, pursuant to a franchise agreement with the State of New York, who owns the facility. Horse racing, training, and boarding operations occur on the site, which includes 13 horse barns and three racetracks. According to NYRA, Aqueduct houses up to 450 horses on site during horse race season from October to April each year, reaching the threshold definition for a medium concentrated animal feeding operation.

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NYRA violated Section 301 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) by discharging the Aqueduct Racetrack in violation of conditions of its New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System general permit for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Specifically, NYRA discharged process wastewater to two connected municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) during dry weather. These MS4s ultimately lead to the Jamaica Bay, a water of the United States.

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Injunctive Relief

NYRA has already implemented some corrective measures and ceased process wastewater discharges prior to this settlement. As part of the settlement, NYRA may not dispose of any wastewater into the storms drains at Aqueduct. NYRA will also submit: a process wastewater elimination plan; a plan for horse washing procedures; a certification that all process wastewater discharges to MS4s have been permanently eliminated; an annual report beginning 8/31/17 of any process wastewater discharge; and quarterly consent decree compliance reports. 

The injunctive relief also includes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Next Generation Compliance tools, including a telemetry monitoring system to detect dry-weather flows and the creation of a stormwater page on NYRA’s public website where the company will post the results of weekly stormwater inspections, as well as the quarterly compliance reports. 

NYRA will also implement a stormwater reduction supplemental environmental project (SEP) at its Belmont Racetrack facility that includes the planting of trees to reduce stormwater runoff through rainfall interception and evapotranspiration. The SEP will reduce contaminated stormwater runoff that flows into Jamaica Bay, the water body which receives stormwater that flows from both Aqueduct and Belmont.

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Pollutant Reductions

NYRA has implemented some corrective measures and ceased process wastewater discharges prior to this settlement. The remaining injunctive relief should ensure no future discharges occur. The SEP described above is estimated to result in the reduction of 45,619 gallons of stormwater runoff per year from Belmont Racetrack to Jamaica Bay.

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Health and Environmental Effects

It is anticipated that the injunctive relief required in this proposed settlement will reduce the amount of pollutants entering the affected waters of the U.S., including nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pathogens, organic matter, solids, sediment and oxygen depleting substances. The injunctive relief is also anticipated to reduce the amount of ammonia, nitrogen, oil and grease, and pathogens into Jamaica Bay and associated tributaries, for which NYSDEC has designated as water quality impaired for these pollutants. 

The communities potentially impacted by the violations are located in Queens, New York, including Ozone Park, Howard Beach, and Hamilton Beach. There are environmental justice concerns with the impact to these communities. This settlement will reduce the impacts of stormwater runoff from both the Aqueduct and Belmont facilities.

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Civil Penalty

NYRA will pay a civil penalty of $150,000.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.  Information on submitting comments is available at Department of Justice website

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For more information, contact:

Kristin Buterbaugh, Attorney-Adviser
Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (Mail Code 2243A)
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-4479

Phyllis Feinmark
Chief, Water and General Law Branch
Office of Regional Counsel
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2
290 Broadway, 16th Floor
New York, New York 10007

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