Tuesday, September 4, 2012

EPA and Suffolk Downs Agree on Water Quality Plan

Clean Water Act Settlement Leads to Favorable Changes in Water Management at Suffolk Downs 

According to an EPA News Release the 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 federal complaint alleged that Suffolk allowed polluted wastewater, including horse manure, urine and bedding material, to discharge into Sales Creek, a tributary of Belle Isle Inlet and Boston Harbor. (It was hard finding a good map of Sales Creek, but this report has some good information and a decent map on page II-7) In addition, the federal complaint alleges that Suffolk operated its concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), which stables race horses from March through November, without a permit under the CWA.

“This settlement reduces a major source of pollution into Boston Harbor,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “In addition, the settlement’s environmental projects include monitoring water quality in the harbor’s watershed, helping to protect a valuable urban waterway for the use and enjoyment of Boston area residents and visitors.”
Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice said “The settlement also brings lasting benefits to residents and the environment by requiring water quality monitoring in the Mystic and Saugus river watersheds and a salt marsh habitat protection project near the racetrack.”

In response to EPA’s enforcement, Suffolk is completing construction of a wastewater collection system, is making improvements to its stormwater collection system and has applied for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Suffolk will minimize the volume of and properly manage the wastewater it produces, which will now be collected in a detention pond and discharged during non-peak hours to the sanitary sewer system. Suffolk will also implement green infrastructure and low impact development techniques to address stormwater discharges from the racetrack and maintenance areas of the facility. These techniques involve the use of natural or engineered systems to direct stormwater to areas where it can be stored, infiltrated or reused.

EPA inspections revealed that Suffolk Down’s process wastewater discharged from the facility to Sales Creek during dry and wet weather. Sampling conducted at various outfalls discharging from the Suffolk Downs facility indicated elevated levels of pollutants, including ammonia, suspended solids and bacteria. Animal wastes contain excessive levels of nutrients and pathogens, which produce adverse environmental impacts including reduction of oxygen in the water, which affects aquatic life.

The presence of excessive nitrogen causes the rapid growth of bacteria that consume the oxygen a nd block light hurting the growth of key species such as eel grass.

Suffolk will undertake three supplemental environmental projects under this settlement, including two water quality monitoring projects and one habitat protection project. Suffolk will work with the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) to conduct monthly baseline and targeted water quality sampling throughout the Mystic River watershed and will work with the Saugus River Watershed Council (SRWC) to conduct a Saugus River watershed sampling program. Both the Mystic River watershed and Saugus River watershed data will be available to the public for free on the MyRWA and SRWC websites. Suffolk will also construct a habitat protection boardwalk in the Belle Isle Marsh, which is immediately downstream of the Suffolk Downs facility and represents one of the largest remaining areas of salt marsh in Boston Harbor. The Belle Isle Marsh encompasses 275 acres of salt marsh, salt meadow, and tidal flats, and is part of the Rumney Marsh Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC).

More information: http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/cwa/sterlingsuffolk.html

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