Many New Jerseyans probably know about Monmouth Park Racetrack. Located in Monmouth County, the racetrack is the state's premier horseracing track. However, many probably don't know about the racetrack's pollution problem. For decades, rainwater and the track's watering system have polluted a local waterway, the Branchport Creek. The main issue was fecal contamination, resulting from the many horses kept at various times at the racetrack.
"The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (NJSEA), which operates the Oceanport facility, has signed a consent order
to make the changes and will pay more than $131,000 for violating New Jersey's Water Pollution Control Act."
When the racetrack opened its season last Saturday, the track debuted "the beginnings of a new stormwater collection system
to prevent fecal contamination in the nearby Branchport Creek." The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reached an agreement with the NJSEA earlier this month, and as a result the NJSEA has agreed to pay the previously mentioned fine, as well as take corrective action to end the decades-old pollution problem.
"During heavy rainfalls, horse manure from the track's stable area washes into the Branchport, creating high fecal and enterococci bacteria rates. The levels started getting so high in 2006 that Monmouth County health officials began posting warnings along the banks of the waterway, which separates Oceanport from Long Branch."
Excess stormwater runoff is supposed to be handled by the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority, but during major rainfalls their drains are overwhelmed and stormwater ends up in the Creek. Ironically, "clean water from the grandstand area and parking lots ends up going to the reclamation plant even though it does not need to be treated."
The new agreement has several facets. An existing pond in the center of the racetrack is slated to be deepened in order to collect clean rain water. However, the major project is the scheduled construction of "a retention basin and pumping system to move contaminated water from the track's stable area to the Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority for treatment." The NJSEA changed some of the underground piping to prevent the clean pond water from mixing with water "that collects in another retention basin that catches the contaminated water from the stable area before being pumped to the treatment facility."
The agreement calls for all work and construction to be completed by August 31, 2012. In order to ensure the NJSEA meets this deadline, "specific timetables have been established to legally hold the sports authority to the schedule."
If there's anything I know from living in New Jersey, it's that public projects rarely proceed as planned and rarely meet deadlines. So while I think this project is great and it serves an obviously good purpose, I'll believe it when I see it.