Environmental problems are preventing Portland Meadows from opening Sept. 1 as originally planned.

Magna Entertainment, which owns the operating rights to the Oregon racetrack, was notified Aug. 28 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that a backside storm water retention plan was not acceptable. The racetrack has been working to comply with alleged violations of the Clean Water Act since August 1999. According to the EPA, the Columbia Slough was being contaminated by fecal material carried out of the Portland Meadows backside when rainwater would wash through dirty stall bedding. To solve the problem, Portland Meadows built a new 36-foot by 250-foot barn to hold the bedding and cleaned up the hotwalker areas.

Portland Meadows' owners have not admitted to violating any provisions of the Clean Water Act and are working out a settlement with the EPA.

The EPA, however, informed Magna Entertainment that if it permits horses to return to Portland Meadows, the company could face penalties and fines. Magna Entertainment said it has notified Oregon horse owners and trainers about the EPA's actions by letter.

Magna Entertainment president Jim McAlpine, who has spent the past several months negotiating and meeting with EPA representatives, said he was disappointed with the "eleventh hour turn of events" and predicts the decision will have a devastating effect on Oregon racing.

"Under the present conditions, we believe that a short spring meet may be the only alternative that would meet EPA requirements," McAlpine said. "We will be reviewing this alternative with Oregon horse owners and trainers in more detail shortly. At the same time, we are working on a plan to relocate to a new facility."

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