(New York, NY. - 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.
The complaint alleges that NYRA, which operates the Aqueduct Racetrack where horse racing, training, and boarding of horses occur, and where up to 450 horses are housed on site during the horse racing season, violated the Clean Water Act as a result of discharging polluted wastewater, containing animal wash water and detergent, and feed waste, from Aqueduct Racetrack into New York City’s and New York State’s storm sewer systems. In 2013 and 2014 alone, NYRA generated and discharged an estimated 1.26 million gallons per year of polluted wastewater to storm sewer systems. The discharges from Aqueduct ultimately flowed to the Hawtree and Bergen Basins, tributaries located within the eastern portion of Jamaica Bay, a navigable water of the United States. Eastern Jamaica Bay and associated tributaries are currently designated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as impaired due to ammonia, nitrogen, oil/grease, and pathogens.
Under the consent decree, NYRA will implement measures to eliminate discharges to the storm sewers and ensure that all polluted wastewater from Aqueduct Racetrack flows to sanitary sewers. The settlement includes interim and long term measures, including (1) designation of an employee who is responsible for ensuring that there are no discharges of polluted wastewaters into storm drains; (2) implementation of procedures applicable to employees to ensure that no polluted wastewater discharges occur; (3) installation and operation of a telemetry monitoring system in the manholes that will alert employees of any dry weather flows in the storm sewers; and (4) weekly inspections. The settlement also requires NYRA to implement horse washing procedures and to implement a public website that makes inspection results and information about NYRA’s compliance available to the public. The Consent Decree also requires NYRA to pay $150,000 as a civil penalty.
In addition, the Consent Decree requires NYRA to implement a Supplemental Environmental Project to reduce storm water runoff impacts. NYRA will plant 62 trees at the nearby NYRA Belmont Racetrack which will (1) capture storm water enabling some of it to evaporate back to the atmosphere rather than reach the ground; (2) mitigate the effect of heavy storm events (i.e., large amounts of runoff) by intercepting and slowing the rate at which storm water reaches the ground; (3) break up the soil to allow the soil to become more permeable and able to absorb greater amounts of storm water; and (4) abate soil erosion. The trees will also provide wildlife habitat and reduce urban “heat island” effects.
Aqueduct Racetrack is a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). EPA defines a CAFO as a facility where animals are kept and raised in confined situations for a total of 45 days or more in any 12-month period and feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise feeding in pastures, fields, or on range land. CAFOs generate significant volumes of animal waste which, if improperly managed, can result in environmental and human health risks such as water quality impairment, fish kills, algal blooms, contamination of drinking water sources, and transmission of disease-causing bacteria and parasites associated with food and waterborne diseases. This action was brought as part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative that uses innovative monitoring and targeting techniques to identify areas where CAFOs impair our nation’s natural resources or adversely impact communities, and to promote technologies to address excess nutrients and reduce animal waste pollution.
“The United States brought this action to ensure that the polluted wastewater discharges that flow from Aqueduct Racetrack and through storm sewers to Jamaica Bay are eliminated. Jamaica Bay is an important habitat for fish, wildlife, migratory birds, and plants. This office will continue to vigorously enforce violations of the Clean Water Act to reduce pollution to this and other waters of the United States,” said United States Attorney Capers.
“Over a million gallons of polluted wastewater has been released every year from the Aqueduct Racetrack into Jamaica Bay, including animal wash water and detergent, and feed waste,” said EPA Regional Administrator Enck. “It is imperative that the New York Racing Association comply with the federal Clean Water Act.”
The action is entitled United States v. The New York Racing Association, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16-CV-05442-LDH-CLP, (DeArcy Hall, J.), (Pollak, M.J.). Following a 30-day comment period and review of any comments received, the United States will determine whether to move to enter the consent decree.
Assistant United States Attorney Deborah B. Zwany is in charge of the litigation, with assistance from Phyllis Kaplan Feinmark, Chief, Water and General Law Branch, EPA Region 2, Kimberly McEathron, Physical Scientist, Water Compliance Branch, EPA Region 2, Kathryn J. Greenwald, Environmental Protection Specialist, EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and Kristin Buterbaugh, Attorney-Adviser, EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.