Environmentalists Intend to Sue Portland Meadows

Environmentalists notified Portland Meadows on Nov. 27 that they intend to sue the racetrack for illegally discharging manure into the Columbia Slough. A letter from the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Columbia Riverkeeper, and Don Francis of the Sierra Club's Portland chapter states the group intends to sue within 60 days for what they claim are violations of the federal Clean Water Act.

Manure-contaminated runoff from the track "threatens the human health of those who use the Columbia Slough for aesthetic, recreational, scientific, and professional purposes," the letter states, according to The Oregonian newspaper.

"These discharges have been going on for years and we felt we had to intercede to force them to comply," Francis told The Oregonian.

Magna Entertainment owns the operating rights to Portland Meadows. Arthur McFadden, president of Magna's Oregon operation, told The Oregonian that a lawsuit would be unfair since the company has been working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since it took over management in May.

Portland Meadows has been struggling with storm water discharge problems since August 1999. The track's previous owner built a special barn to hold dirty stall bedding and protect it from rain.

"We're in the process of spending $1 million to correct problems that were here since 1946," McFadden told The Oregonian. "We're working closely with the EPA and have taken several steps to manage runoff problems. To say there's manure going into the Columbia Slough is not true."

The EPA delayed the start of Portland Meadows' live meet in October by a week because it rejected a storm water retention plan. Magna devised a plan to keep surface water from draining off the property, so the EPA allowed the meet to begin. The federal agency initially wanted 100% compliance with all alleged violations, but agreed the meet could start as long as progress is made.

Magna is leasing Portland Meadows for three years, possibly four. The company has purchased property south of Portland and is considering building a new racetrack.