09/30/2016 6:30PM

New York Racing Association fined $150,000 for polluting Jamaica Bay

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The New York Racing Association was fined $150,000 and agreed to implement several changes in waste management protocols after it was deemed to have discharged polluted wastewater from Aqueduct into nearby Jamaica Bay.

On Friday, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and the Environmental Protection Agency in a press release announced details of a complaint against NYRA alleging the company 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. The complaint alleges that in 2013 and 2014 alone, NYRA generated and discharged an estimated 1.26 million gallons per year of polluted wastewater to storm sewer systems.

“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 Judith Enck in a press release. “It is imperative that the New York Racing Association comply with the federal Clean Water Act.”

In addition to paying a fine, NYRA reached a settlement, known as a consent decree, with the U.S. Attorney and the EPA in which it must implement measures to eliminate discharges and ensure that all polluted wastewater from Aqueduct flows to sanitary sewers. The settlement includes designating an employee who is responsible for ensuring there are no discharges of polluted wastewaters into storm drains; implementation of procedures applicable to employees to ensure that no polluted wastewater discharges occur;  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 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.

At Aqueduct, NYRA has built new wash pads inside the barns, and connected those wash pads to the city’s sanitary sewer. This work was completed during the summer, according to NYRA. Aqueduct’s backstretch was closed from May 7 through Sept. 7.

“NYRA is pleased to have worked with the EPA to obtain a satisfactory resolution of the matter and remains committed to improving the environment in and around each of its racetracks,” NYRA communications director Patrick McKenna wrote in an e-mail. “NYRA worked quickly, and in coordination with the EPA, to remedy the problem by renovating its facilities at Aqueduct Racetrack to prevent future contamination and ensure compliance with the Clean Water Act. This work is now completed and we are implementing all necessary steps to prevent any future discharges.”

Under the agreement, NYRA must implement a supplemental environmental project to reduce storm water runoff impacts. As part of that project, NYRA has agreed to plant 62 new trees at Belmont Park to help mitigate the effect of heavy storms by intercepting and slowing the rate at which storm water reaches the ground.