Horseracing Mecca Accused of Polluting Intracoastal Waterway

(CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency claims in court that South Florida’s Gulfstream Park, a popular thoroughbred racetrack and casino, is unlawfully polluting waters surrounding the facility.

Opened in 1939, Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, is one of the most important venues for horse racing in America.

But according to a federal complaint filed in Miami, the 243-acre park is a “large concentrated animal feeding operation” that is discharging large volumes of polluted water into the Intracoastal waterway.

As described in the complaint, the park is home to about 1,100 horse who race year-round, and the horse racing operation includes stables, concrete wash pads, covered manure/bedding dumpsters, and a 5,800 square-foot manure storage/transfer building..

All of these, and the rest of the property’s buildings, facilities and parking lots, are served by five storm water drainage systems that work independently of each other.

At the same time, the park maintains to wastewater management systems, composed of two areas: the “East Barn” and the “North Barn.”

The East Barn diverts horse wash water to the sanitary sewer system, while the North Barn discharges horse wash and storm water to a pre-treatment pond that is chlorinated before being discharged to an “infield track lake, the complaint says.

“The Infield Track Lake has a surface water discharge to a canal on the eastern border of the site that flows to the Intracoastal Waterway, a navigable-in-fact water of the United States,” the complaint says.

In 2008, Gulfstream Park received a permit from Broward County, Florida, to create two openings in a lake barrier so that its depth could be better managed.

But the EPA claims those openings have resulted in illegal discharges of pollutant water from the infield track lake to the intracoastal waterway.

The feds claim their state counterpart, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,  issued a permit to Gulfstream Park in 2014 that requires it to notify the agency, orally and in writing, within specified time limits, if and when it becomes aware of a discharge.

The complaint says that the permit also requires Gulfstream Park to maintain on-site records of data, permits, management plans, inspections, and actions to correct deficiencies.

But when state and federal regulators invested the park on July 29, 2014, the complaint says, they found several violations of both the Clean Water Act and state and local permits.

Specifically, the EPA says, Gulfstream Park was performing unauthorized discharges twice a day from the infield track lake into the Intracoastal.

“… Defendant’s permit does not allow for any discharge of process wastewater unless precipitation caused a discharge, provided that the facility is designed, constructed, operated and maintained to contain all manure, process wastewater, runoff from the production area and direct precipitation from a 25-yr/24-hr rainfall event,” the complaint says.

In the wake of the inspection, both the EPA and state environmental regulators sent the park notice of its failure to comply with its permits, and on Feb. 26, 2015, the EPA sent Gulfstream Park a notice of civil violation for discharging pollutants from its operations for an extended period.

The United States is seeking civil penalties of $32,504 per day for each violation which took place between March 2004 and Jan, 12, 2009; fines of $37,500 per day for each violation which took place between Jan. 12, 2009 and Nov. 2, 2015; and fines of $52,414 per day for each violation which took place after Nov. 2, 2015.

The agency is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Annika Miranda of Miami.

Representatives of Gulfstream Park did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment.

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