A legal agreement has been reached between the Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority that should end a long-standing water pollution problem caused by runoff from the Monmouth Park thoroughbred horse racing track in Oceanport.
According to an administrative court consent order signed by the Sports Authority, which owns and operates Monmouth Park Racetrack, a series of improvements will be made at the track to properly deal with polluting stormwater runoff that has fouled a local waterway.
The authority also agreed to pay a fine of $131,250 to the DEP for violating the state's Water Pollution Control Act, according to the consent order.
"I am glad to see the Sports and Exposition Authority has become a good neighbor and agreed to deal with the pollution problems caused by the operation,'' said Wolf Skacel, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Compliance & Enforcement.
"When completed, these changes will allow them to better manage stormwater flow at the race track in an environmentally sensitive way. This should result in an improvement of water quality in the Branchport Creek."
Currently, during major rainfalls, excess stormwater runoff from the stables area that can't be handled by a local sewage treatment plant ends up flowing into nearby Branchport Creek, a tributary of the Shrewsbury River.
Under terms of the agreement with the DEP, the Sports Authority will construct a major detention basin that can hold excess water and install a pumping system that can move that contaminated water to the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority for treatment. This water will be released from the basin as the authority is able to treat it.
Also, to better deal with stormwater, gutters will be installed on all of the stables so clean water can be directed to the creek without a need for treatment.
The deadline for completing the improvements, according to the consent order, is Aug. 31, 2012.
"This is the final step needed to completely address the issue of contaminated stormwater from the racetrack that has long overwhelmed the system,'' said Skacel. "This will prevent additional runoff from becoming contaminated, a significant improvement over what is happening there now.''
A $21.5 million DEP low-interest loan package to the Sports Authority was approved last September to help finance the upcoming improvements. The consent order formalizes the settlement between the two agencies, sets a strict timetable for the work to get done, and also settles penalties previously issued to the Sports Authority for water pollution control violations.
"The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is keeping its promise to the people of Oceanport and Monmouth County to actively complete an environmentally sound long-term solution to the issue of stormwater management and runoff at Monmouth Park," stated NJSEA President and CEO Dennis Robinson.
"The Authority has already invested over $1 million dollars to improve the barn area and entered into a landmark agreement with the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority to increase the wastewater and stormwater run-off flow to up to 500,000 gallons a day," added Authority Chairman Carl Goldberg.
In November, 2009, the Sports Authority commissioners awarded a $12 million contract to Benjamin R. Harvey, Inc. of Ocean Township for the first major phase of the project, to construct a stormwater management system. A phase two contract is now out for bid, which would focus on rebuilding the stormwater system in the main barn area.