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Suffolk Downs Race Course Ordered to Reduce Bacterial Waste in Stormwater

Release Date: 05/15/2008
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – May 15, 2008) – EPA has ordered the Suffolk Downs horse racing track of East Boston to take immediate action to reduce pollutants being discharged to Sales Creek, a tributary to Boston Harbor. Suffolk Downs is violating the federal Clean Water Act due to horse manure, urine, bedding material, and stable wash water that are entering the waterways through stormwater runoff.

The action is specifically an Administrative Order that EPA has issued to the Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, LLC, requiring it to immediately make all practicable efforts to cease discharging pollutants to its storm drain system and Sales Creek. The EPA order requires Suffolk to routinely inspect its facility for discharges to Sales Creek and the adjacent wetland and to collect a limited number of dry- and wet-weather samples from its outfalls.

The EPA order also requires Suffolk to submit an application for the appropriate discharge permit from EPA. Suffolk is required to develop and submit a plan for interim measures to eliminate or reduce to the maximum extent possible the discharge of pollutants until the required permit – a "National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System" (NPDES) permit for a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation – is issued to the facility.

"It’s very important that all citizens and organizations understand and comply with environmental laws, which are designed to protect the health of people and the environment," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. "EPA and our partners have invested a lot of time and effort in improving water quality in the Boston area, in the Charles River, in Boston Harbor and in the Mystic River. This action reflects our commitment to a clean and healthy environment."

In response to an information request and on-site inspections by EPA dating back to 2006, EPA has determined that more than 500 horses have been stabled at the facility for more than 45 days per year. Suffolk also reported that the facility discharges to Sales Creek and an adjacent wetland through several outfalls and two drainage swales. Consequently, Suffolk Downs is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation ("CAFO") and needs an NPDES permit for any discharges to waters of the United States, such as Sales Creek.

EPA inspections have revealed that horse and stable wash water have been discharged repeatedly to the facility’s storm drain system during dry-weather. EPA inspectors observed storm water contaminated with manure wastes and highly turbid, brown runoff being discharged from the facility to Sales Creek. Sampling conducted at various outfalls discharging from Suffolk Downs indicates elevated ammonia, surfactant, suspended solids, biological oxygen demand, and bacterial concentrations being discharged to Sales Creek in both dry- and wet-weather.

More information:

- Stormwater permits in New England (

- General information on NPDES permits in New England (

- Enforcing clean water requirements in New England (

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