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Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC Settlement

(Washington, DC - August 22, 2012) - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC will pay a civil penalty of $1.25 million to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) at its Suffolk Downs racetrack facility in Revere and East Boston, Mass. The company is also spending more than $3 million to prevent polluted water from entering nearby waterways and will perform three environmental projects worth approximately $742,000 that will provide water quality monitoring and protection efforts for more than 123 square miles of watershed. The terms of the settlement are contained in a consent decree lodged in federal court in Boston today.

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Overview of Facility

Sterling Suffolk Racecourse LLC (Suffolk) owns and operates Suffolk Downs, a 161-acre thoroughbred racing facility located in East Boston and Revere, Massachusetts. The facility includes two concentric racetracks, a grandstand, clubhouse, ancillary buildings and parking areas. The facility also includes 32 stable buildings, approximately 1200 horse stalls, feed storage areas, manure storage areas, dead animal storage areas, animal walkways and associated areas. Because 500 or more horses are stabled at the facility for at least 45 days of the year, Suffolk Downs is a large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO).

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Suffolk violated section 301 of the Clean Water Act by discharging pollutants (e.g., manure, urine and bedding materials) from a CAFO to waters of the United States without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

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Injunctive Relief

The injunctive relief required by the settlement includes facility upgrades and the implementation of best management practices so that the facility will be in compliance with its NPDES permit upon issuance by the permitting authority. The facility upgrades and best management practices utilize green infrastructure techniques where practicable. Suffolk estimates that it will spend over $3 million on injunctive relief.

In response to federal enforcement actions (including a previously issued administrative compliance order), Suffolk is completing construction of a roof runoff diversion system in the stable area to separate clean roof runoff from stormwater that has come into contact with manure, urine, bedding, feed and dead animals. This diversion system will reduce the volume of wastewater generated within the stable area by approximately 40%. Suffolk is also installing sewer infrastructure to pipe the wastewater from the stable area to a storage pond. From the storage pond, the wastewater will either be pumped to the local sanitary sewer system, or will be used for irrigation of the grassy area in the track infield. Additionally, Suffolk will install sand filters, infiltration islands and a sediment settling and infiltration forebay to manage stormwater runoff from the two racetracks and areas associated with the racetracks and from the separated roof runoff from buildings within the stable area.

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Health and Environmental Effects

Pollutants associated with animal wastes include nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), pathogens and organic compounds. These pollutants threaten human health and the environment by increasing suspended solids that cloud the water and inhibit the functioning of aquatic plants and animals; contributing to algae growth which can cause decreased oxygen levels adversely affecting fish and other aquatic life; and transmitting diseases to humans via bacteria and parasites. 

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Pollutant Reductions

The facility upgrades and the improved management practices implemented as a result of federal enforcement actions will annually prevent wastewater contaminated with an estimated 193 tons of horse manure, urine and associated bedding materials from discharging into Belle Isle Inlet and Boston Harbor.

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Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)

Pursuant to the settlement, Suffolk will implement three SEPs, at a total cost of approximately $742,000. Two of the SEPs are projects designed to monitor the water quality of the Mystic River and the Saugus River watersheds. The third SEP involves the installation of a boardwalk at Belle Isle Marsh, the largest surviving salt marsh in Boston Harbor. The boardwalk is designed to provide community access to the marsh without causing harm to sensitive wetland vegetation or destabilizing the marsh’s riparian buffer.

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Civil Penalty

Suffolk will pay a civil penalty of $1.25 million to the United States within 30 days of the effective date of the settlement.

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Comment Period

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

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For additional information, contact

Melissa Katz
Office of Civil Enforcement - OECA
Ariel Rios Building (Mail Code 2243A)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
(202) 564-5567
Melissa Katz (

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