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Warning on lead fallout at gun clubs
Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer

Monday, September 29, 2008


(09-28) 18:49 PDT -- For 40 years on clear mornings, avid shooters have turned out at the Petaluma Trap and Skeet Club for the sport of popping away at clay pigeons hurled into the air.

The western Sonoma County range looks idyllic with hawks and golden eagles diving over grazing sheep. But in a year's time, the rural outdoor range is strewn with seven tons of lead, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, which owns the land.

Health officials worry about even trace amounts of lead in gasoline, paint, plumbing, food and consumer products, which is why conservationists and regulators are warning about letting thousands of tons of lead accumulate at shooting ranges statewide.

Despite some cleanups and spotty county inspections, dozens of ranges in California remain under the radar of regulation.

Lead litter endangers wildlife and waterways, scientists say. Lead is so toxic that if consumed, it stunts the growth of animals and plants, and causes the loss of biological diversity, according to scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Runoff from ranges can be rich in lead, said Tom Mumley, assistant executive officer of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, which halted the use of lead shot at shooting ranges near water in the mid-1990s.

"We think there are solutions that don't require lead shot."

But gun clubs, like the Petaluma Trap and Skeet Club, disagree.

"Lead's not a contaminant. It doesn't run with the water," said Jerry Cossey, club president of the Petaluma club who has been a member for all of its 40 years.

But costly cleanups show otherwise.

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission water customers paid $25 million to clean up the now-closed Peninsula Gun Club near San Francisco Bay in Menlo Park. At Lake Merced, the city told the Pacific Rod and Gun Club to begin a lead study at the club's expense.

"There could well be more than 1,000 tons of lead remaining at the lake from skeet shooting over the years," said Tony Winnicker, commission spokesman. "That, of course, is a serious concern."

Wildlife at risk
Environmentalists and hunters are still at odds after a state law passed last year banned lead bullets in 14 counties. The law is intended to protect California condors from poisoning because the birds' food, dead birds and mammals, becomes contaminated when the animals consume lead ammunition or are shot with lead.

The condor preservation fight highlighted the issue of lead exposure and its effect on the environment, according to a recent report by the American Ornithological Society for Audubon California. Lead shot has also been banned for use at national wildlife refuges and some state parks. And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told duck and geese hunters to stop using lead ammunition by 1991 as a way of protecting wetlands and water.

"There's no good reason to be putting lead in the environment ... it's clear it's toxic," said Graham Chisholm, Audubon California's conservation director.

Diane Hichwa, conservation chair of the local Madrone Audubon Society, agreed. "Lead as an environmental contaminant could be quite detrimental in the area west of Petaluma, which is a wintering area for raptors as they move along the Pacific Flyway."

The Petaluma shooting range, scattered with spent shot and broken clay, could attract golden eagles, hawks, peregrine falcons, American kestrels and merlins, said Melissa Pitkin, education director of PRBO Conservation Science.

Betty Burridge, famed editor of "Sonoma County Breeding Bird Atlas," singled out birds that would "eat off the ground" - California quails, mourning doves, rock pigeons and wild turkeys. Barn owls, which nest in the area, eat rats and mice that could pick up lead from the ground.

Coast Guard monitoring
Most ranges aren't required to report the release of lead. The amount of lead left behind by the Petaluma Trap and Skeet Club - which can serve as an indicator for other ranges - came to light only because the Coast Guard must submit an annual report to the EPA.

For the first time in 2006 and 2007, the Coast Guard reported that 300,000 shots fired at the club resulted in an annual 14,000 pounds of lead.

Patrick Nelligan, environmental protection specialist at the Coast Guard Training Center at Petaluma, said the Coast Guard adheres to the EPA's "best management" practices on outdoor shooting ranges, which outline how lead should be recovered, recycled and kept from moving outside of the range.

Nelligan said the club pays for a lead cleanup at least every five years. The top 2 inches of soil are removed and the shot is separated on the 1,000-foot by 225-foot fall zone. The grass seed planted by the club and alfalfa grown by Sonoma County farmers help to inhibit lead runoff from the range, he said.

The club is required to hire a company to test the soil every other year.

The most recent soil monitoring reported the highest lead concentration of 17,000 parts per million and the average of nine samples taken in the fall zone at 2,165 ppm, said Nelligan, who reviews the results. The lead isn't considered hazardous waste by the EPA because it's on a shooting range - and eventually will be recycled. If it were a hazardous waste site, the ratio would have to be cleaned up to 1,000 ppm.

The sampling of soil is limited to the shooting range, Nelligan said. The Coast Guard assumes that the topography and vegetation limit migration offsite of lead, he said.

Resistance to change
Shooters bristle at the idea that their sport is harmful to the environment and resist changing the shot they use.

There appear to be 80 gun clubs in California, according to Clay Targets Online. Lead is the cheapest, most popular shot. If the lead peppered on the range west of Petaluma is any indication of what small outdoor ranges accumulate in a year, lead litter statewide could reach 500 tons a year.

Representatives of the Pacific International Trapshooting Association and the California State Trapshooting Association refused to respond to queries about membership and any movement toward replacing lead shot.

Skeet aficionados prefer lead shot, saying non-toxic substitutes cost much more. Steel, one alternative, can damage older guns, takes more powder to shoot and is not as effective, they say.

Jeff Miller, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said there are at least 10 approved nontoxic types of shot other than lead and steel and some were designed to approximate the density and weight of lead.

"As regulations and interest in using non-lead shot increase, the price is going to come down," Miller said. "Lead's been a useful metal. But from what we know... there's no reason to keep using it."



Watch out, as goes California usually goes the rest of the Union.
 

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Don't they care about all the other things destroying our environment. What about the chemicalss and gasses released by the human cigarette smoker. What about the exhaust put out by cars, the waste put out by the massive electric systems at county or state offices.

I think this lead should be a concern, but nowhere near the top of the list.
 

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I've been shooting for 30 plus years, Casting bullets for a couple, reloading cast bullets for 25 plus years with no DOGS, Big DOGS issues.:D
 

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Discussion Starter #4
BREAKING NEWS

THOUSANDS OF TONS OF LEAD ORE FOUND UNDERGROUND ON EARTH
ENVIRONMENTALISTS SAY IT WILL COST MILLIONS TO REMOVE

FILM AT 11


I like how they try to justify how hazardous it is by saying how much it costs to clean it up.
 

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Lead is an element that is mined, people act like stuff thats natural is so horrible. Either way, I bet the range was there before the homes were.
 

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All good points....

They should clean up all the lead globally if they are cleaning the stuff we shoot, all the lead deep down in the earths layers.

Stupid cavemen...how could they be such litter bugs
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Lead is an element that is mined, people act like stuff thats natural is so horrible. Either way, I bet the range was there before the homes were.
I bet your right what kinda of idiot builds a house next to a gun range we have the OKCGC about 20 miles from where i live in a rural area 20 years ago there wasn't a house within 10 miles of it now the area is getting more populated and there have been numerous request to have it shut down not only for safety reasons but because it creates to much noise especially on the weekend when there are more shooters out there.

DUH you want peace, quite and safety don't build a house next to a gun range thats been there for more than 40 years its not like someone said hey i got an idea lets go build this really big gun range right next to a bunch of big houses and see if we can annoy the people who live in them.
 

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I bet your right what kinda of idiot builds a house next to a gun range we have the OKCGC about 20 miles from where i live in a rural area 20 years ago there wasn't a house within 10 miles of it now the area is getting more populated and there have been numerous request to have it shut down not only for safety reasons but because it creates to much noise especially on the weekend when there are more shooters out there.

DUH you want peace, quite and safety don't build a house next to a gun range thats been there for more than 40 years its not like someone said hey i got an idea lets go build this really big gun range right next to a bunch of big houses and see if we can annoy the people who live in them.
At the range I belong to, we raised dues in order to build a savings account to buy the property adjacent to the range if it were to go up for sale. Its about the only way you can protect your investment. We just redid the whole range, raised burms and side walls in order to reduce noise and at some point we will have to instal baffles of some sort. Indoors we put new sound deadening accoustical foam pannels on the ceiling and sound deadening blankets on the walls. All in order to reduce the noise pollution.
 

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If it weren't for lead, where would Superman be? Huh? Sheesh!!

 

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IMO, this is just another trick the left has up their sleeves to shutdown anything associated with guns including the ranges that their police, neighbors, and youth shoot at.

I know several Pennsylvania State Game Lands ranges were closed due to "maintenance" by the state because of health concerns with the lead and paranoia of stray bullets (it has 20' high berms with thick trees on top of the berms).

Needless to say, the ranges have been closed in excess of at least 3 years by now (but it's probably closer to 5) while they perform 'maintenance'. That combined with our liberal Governor compounds the problem to the point where I don't think the State Game Commission could even get the money to finish the 'maintenance' from the state if it wanted to.
 

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Our club partnered with the state Department of Environmental Quality on one of their Environmental Quality plans.

It means we are working with the state to develop best practices for taking care of the environment, not just lead but other pollutants as well..

While a member of the program there is a lot of legal protection for us against actions to shut us down for lead issues. The way I understand it as long as you are a member of the program, have a documented set of proceedures for lead abatement, and are showing progress they can't take any action against you.

If you are a member of a range you should look into it and see if your state has a similar program.

Newsletter - Page 1
 

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It's all envormental BS. The gun grabbers know they can't get to the guns but ammo, well, that isn't protected by the 2nd ammendment is it? Lead occurs natutally in the soil, yes it is toxic if ingested, but it's eally much do about nothing. Kalifornia won't be happy until it's a gun free zone.:mad:
 
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