Making tracks play by EPA rules is fair

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2008

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency announced this week that it is taking a closer look at horse tracks when it comes to environmental permits.

Beulah Park in Columbus recently became the state’s first track to apply for an environmental permit from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The track has about 1,000 horses in its stables and any operation with 500 or more horses must have permits.

Ohio’s tracks had largely gone unnoticed by the EPA for years.

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“A lot of times, (racetracks) just didn’t show up on anybody’s radar,” Kevin Elder, executive director of the department’s Livestock Environmental Permitting Program, told the Associated Press.

There’s no question that the beleaguered Ohio EPA should have made tracks play by the rules sooner and that is highlighted even more when the EPA has cracked down on tracks in other states. In 1999, the Portland Meadows Race Track in Oregon was cited for discharging untreated animal waste into drainage ditches that connect to a tributary to the Columbia River.

River Downs was given a similar order by the U.S. EPA in 2005. The Cincinnati track was told it needed a federal permit because of its manure stockpiles near the Ohio River that weren’t contained. So far, the track has not applied for the permit and no fines have been levied even though the EPA acknowledges that, in all likelihood, there have been discharges into the river.

Scioto Downs in Columbus and Northfield Park are also under review. The state is also considering whether to require the state fairgrounds to have a permit because of the thousands of animals that show up there in August.

The effort by the EPA is a step in the right direction because the criteria for environmental permits do not rest with what type of business is in operation. And the EPA needs to hold the tracks accountable with penalties when necessary.

The tracks fall into a category where permits are required. Period.

And because of that, they have an environmental impact and must play by the rules.