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Environmental Groups and Fairgrounds Reach Agreement to Improve Water Quality

Del Mar CA— The Del Mar Fairgrounds in conjunction with San Diego Coastkeeper and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) has agreed to a schedule for the completion of significant infrastructure improvements aimed at bringing the Fairgrounds into compliance with applicable clean water requirements and improving water quality from the Fairgrounds Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) that services the races and the annual fair.

Improvements resulting from the agreement will include the capture of stormwater from areas of the Fairgrounds where animals are housed, and the treatment of that stormwater before discharge into adjacent sensitive waterways. Additionally, the 22nd District Agricultural Association will contribute over $51,000 to the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy to benefit water quality in the San Dieguito River watershed.

“During periods of rainfall, harmful bacteria and pollutants were flowing directly into Stevens Creek and the San Dieguito Lagoon,” said Matt O’Malley, executive director and attorney for San Diego Coastkeeper. “This agreement will help protect sensitive wildlife, as well as the swimmers and surfers who depend on clean water.”

Early last year, Coastkeeper and CERF noted that the Fairgrounds was discharging storm water laden with bacteria from animal waste, dissolved metals, and excess nutrients directly into local waters during specific rain events. The investigations identified possible impacts to Steven Creek, the San Dieguito River, the protected San Dieguito Lagoon State Marine Conservation Area, and ultimately, the Pacific Ocean.

Portions of the Fairground’s operations include a large CAFO — the same designation given to large-scale feedlots that house over 700 cows or 2,500 pigs. As such, both federal and state clean water laws impose additional requirements on its operations, which the Fairgrounds has been working to address. In a letter to the Fairgrounds dated March 16, 2016 Coastkeeper and CERF pointed out that these requirements were not being met. With these improvements, the Fairgrounds will be able to capture and treat stormwater from the CAFO areas up to the largest recorded rain event that has occurred in the last twenty-five years.

“This facility is run by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a governmental entity. We expect the government to be at the forefront of environmental compliance. To its credit, the Fairgrounds has stepped up with a major financial commitment to improving water quality in the creek,” stated CERF’s executive director and Coast Law Group LLP attorney, Marco Gonzalez.

The Fairgrounds, in conjunction with Coastkeeper, CERF and the Regional Water Quality Control Board have embarked on a $10,000,000 project that over the next several years will convert the racetrack infield water features into holding ponds, build a constructed wetland, and a treatment plant that will serve to filter pollutants from stormwater before it leaves the Fairgrounds.

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