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Portland Meadows Assessed $500K Penalty

Release Date: 8/7/2003
Contact Information: David Allnutt
(206) 553-2581

August 7, 2003

Federal District Court Judge Garr King has issued a decision assessing a $500,000 civil penalty in United States v. The New Portland Meadows, Inc., et al. The case, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on EPA’s behalf, involves discharges of manure-laden wastewater from the Portland Meadows race track to tributaries of the Columbia Slough in Portland, Oregon. The judgment follows a three-day trial on penalty issues that was held in late May 2003.

In a short decision accompanying the judgment, Judge King found that “the risk generated by the contaminated discharge was significant” and that the defendant’s history of violations “weighs heavily against The New Portland Meadows.” The judge determined that The New Portland Meadows, Inc. had avoided pollution control costs resulting in substantial economic benefit to the company. He set the final penalty at $500,000 to reflect the company's assets immediately prior to trial.

According to Randy Smith, Director of EPA’s water quality office in Seattle, resolution of this case is a another step forward in protecting water quality in the Columbia Slough.

“Judge King’s decision is an important step forward and a real milestone for us,” said EPA’s Smith. “EPA puts a high priority on protecting the Columbia Slough and the Willamette River from pathogens and other pollutants. To use these important waterbodies as dumping grounds is unacceptable and unlawful. The penalty assessed by Judge King shows that those who discharge illegally will be held accountable.”

The New Portland Meadows, Inc. operated the Portland Meadows race track between 1991 and May 2001. The United States’ Clean Water Act claims against the current operator of the track, MEC Oregon Racing, Inc., were resolved last year through a federal court consent decree that obligated the defendants to pay a $100,000 civil penalty and make more than $1 million in wastewater improvements to the track.

The $500,000 penalty assessed against The New Portland Meadows is the highest civil penalty ever assessed against the operator of a “concentrated animal feeding operation” for violations of the federal Clean Water Act.
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