Yonkers Raceway Agrees To Bronx River Cleanup

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan today announced a settlement in a water pollution case involving Yonkers Raceway.

Under the agreement, Yonkers Racing Corporation will take a series of steps to prevent wastewater pollution of the river.

"Improving water quality in the Bronx River has been an environmental priority for the state," Attorney General Spitzer said. "I'm pleased that the owners of the track cooperated in resolving this matter by agreeing to make major investments that will improve water quality and increase recreational opportunities."

DEC Commissioner Sheehan said: "This settlement addresses damages to the Bronx river and requires a comprehensive approach to prevent future violations. New York State will continue to enforce our laws and regulations that protect water quality for the benefit of the Bronx River and our other precious natural resources."

An investigation by the Attorney General's office and the DEC revealed that for many years, human and animal waste generated at the track has been discharged into the river. These discharges contain harmful E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria.

Investigators determined that toilets in the track's executive suite, grooms' quarters, veterinarian building and blacksmith shops connect directly to a storm sewer instead of to the city's municipal sanitary sewer. In addition, horse manure has been routinely flushed into storm sewers daily as horses and their stalls are cleaned. Water from the storm sewer flows directly into the Bronx River without being treated at a wastewater treatment plant.

Under terms of the settlement, the Yonkers Racing Corporation will:

  • Stop all discharges of human waste into the river;
  • Come into full compliance with the terms of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) General Permit by no later than March 31, 2007;
  • Pay for $6 million in projects to reduce stormwater pollution of the river;
  • Pay $1 million to the Beczak Environmental Education Center; and
  • Pay a $2 million civil penalty to the state.

The total value of the agreement is $9 million, one of the largest settlements of its kind.

Today's agreement is part of Attorney General Spitzer's comprehensive Bronx River Watershed Initiative to clean up the Bronx River. Previous pollution settlements have been reached with the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Gardens, which have fully implemented measures to cut off their pollution of the Bronx River. In addition, in 2004 the Attorney General, on behalf of the state and DEC, obtained a court order requiring the City of Yonkers to stop polluting the Bronx River with raw sewage. Investigations of other Bronx River polluters continue.

The Yonkers Raceway case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Philip Bein and Environmental Scientist Patricia Primi, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lehner. Assistance in this case was provided by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the State Racing and Wagering Board, the State Division of the Lottery, the State Department of Transportation, and the City of Yonkers.

The settlement may be viewed in the press releases section at www.ag.ny.gov

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