Horse Racing Tracks : Addressing Environmental Concerns w/ Proper Manure Management

Most U.S. state governments support the horse racing industry mainly because they are part of the regional tradition, aside from being a stable source of taxes. However, there came a time when communities with race tracks had raised concerns over the amount of animal wastes produced by horses and their effect on the environment.

During the early 19th century, the issues related to horse manure were mainly concerned with the horse manure left on streets by horses and horse-driven carriages used aa modes of transport during the era. In the 21st century, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) still saw problems in animal wastes disposal systems not only in the agricultural sector, but also in the horse racing/horse breeding industry.

Advanced solutions to the “great manure crisis of 2017” were introduced as more efficient and eco-friendly methods of solving deficiencies in animal wastes management. Yet the implementation of said solutions remained a problem among track operators as the additional costs can impact the horse racing revenues generated by the racecourses. Studies show that a single horse is capable of producing an average of 12 tons of wastes yearly, comprising manure and soiled beddings.

To force race track operators to install systems of proper horse wastes disposal, the EPA imposed hefty fines on those found non-compliant with the federal government’s policies on proper horse waste management.

Case Example of EPA Actions on Violation of Prescribed Horse Waste Management Systems

Inasmuch as animal wastes are also usable as fertilizers, related waste disposal systems are mainly concerned in preventing waste runoffs from polluting local waters. Moreover, different types of wastes e.g. horse carcasses, urine, manure and beddings, produce different pollutants that have varying impacts on the environment.

To cite an example of how EPA enforced environmental laws related to proper management of horse wastes, reference is made to the Sterling Suffolk Racecourse (SSR) in Boston, Massachusetts. A few years ago, the EPA had fined the then owners of the race track hefty fines, amounting to nearly $5 million. The amount included costs of remediation actions instituted, to address the environmental problems caused by SSR’s improper horse waste management.

According to EPA reports, the seriousness of the damage created by SSR’s poor waste management were due to the type of wastes that were allowed to runoff and contaminate the bodies of water in Boston. Horse waste runoffs had resulted in algae growth, which led to decreases in oxygen levels and conditions harmful to aquatic creatures inhabiting the local waters. If not addressed with remediation measures, the pollutant can pose as contaminants that carry bacteria and parasites that can transmit diseases to humans.

Although the SSR racing grounds was later sold to a real estate developer, SSR leased back part of the property for horse racing and advance-deposit wagering. In July 2019, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission gave the race track operators approval to hold four days of racing in the 2019 Suffolks Down; to which approval came with heavy opposition from some members of the Commission.

Despite the limited number of days, Past the Wire (https://pastthewire.com/category/horse-racing-news/ ) noted that track operators, the local horsemen and the Massachusetts Thoroughbred Breeders Association deemed the four days of seeing action in the 2019 Suffolks Down, as better than none.