Meadows reuses everything from frying oil to manure

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 10:43 a.m.

Each time diners at Meadows Racetrack and Casino restaurants order french fries, they're helping the environment.

In an average week, the South Strabane facility's three restaurants and the food court generate 200 gallons of frying oil. The Meadows recycles every drop into biodiesel, which helps power most of the racetrack's vehicles and equipment.

The program is the most recently implemented green initiative at the Meadows, which finds a way to reuse or repurpose everything from manure to runoff water.

“At first, it sounds complicated, but once you get into it, it's very simple,” said Dan Mangan, racing facilities manager.

The fuel program has been in operation for a month, with Mangan executing the conversion in a small building behind the track. The oil collects in a vat, is heated, tested and finally combined with a mix of potassium hydroxide and methanol. It can be used for any vehicle that does not travel outside the complex.

The business uses about 10,000 gallons of biodiesel a year. The savings from the used fryer oil is about $2.75 a gallon.

The property has 18 barns housing 750 horses. Their “spent bedding” — an industry term for a mix of used straw and manure — is collected under a large tent. Every month, 550 tons of it travels from Washington to Armstrong County, where it's converted into compost for the underground Creekside Mushrooms farm.

“Traditionally, getting it out is a big expense,” said Mike Jeannot, president of Meadows Racing. “You have to take it to a landfill and treat it.”

The mushroom company pays for the removal of the manure, which typically fills 10 tractor-trailers a week, Mangan said. The program has been in place since at least the 1980s, he said. A Creekside company representative could not be reached for comment.

Meadows crews are planning to use runoff instead of fresh water to clean the limestone track of dust, a process that can use up to 40,000 gallons a day in the summer. Races are held four times a week, year-round.

A pump placed in an unnamed tributary of Chartiers Creek that runs through the racetrack property collects the water, which is stored in three underground cisterns until it moves to trucks. The state Department of Environmental Protection regulates the process.

Many of these initiatives are possible because of revenue generated at the casino, Jeannot said. Table-game and slot revenue grew from $22.32 million in June 2011 to $24.96 million in June 2012, state reports show.

“A racetrack is an enormously expensive thing to operate,” Jeannot said.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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