Shooting Ranges On Notice About Lead Cleanup

Source: The Hartford Courant, August 14, 2008

The issue of contamination from lead bullets and shotgun pellets has been cropping up for years around the country, and there have been several lawsuits involving federal environmental laws that have prompted ranges to close and, in some cases, forced them to clean up the lead.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are 9,000 non-military outdoor shooting ranges in the United States collectively shooting millions of pounds of lead annually.

A landmark 1993 case brought by the Connecticut Coastal Fishermen’s Association against the Remington Arms Co. forced the company to close down a long-running shotgun range at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Stratford. While several of the fishermen’s claims ultimately were rejected, the range remains closed, and the court decided the company should be held responsible for remediation and cleanup of the lead.

Even though many environmental regulations do not specifically apply to gun ranges, the EPA on its website said the Remington case established that ranges risk legal action “if they fail to routinely recover and reclaim lead, and do not take steps to minimize lead release or migration.”

The EPA’s manual for “best management practices” at outdoor gun ranges advises ranges to “control and contain” lead bullets and lead fragments, keep lead from migrating into water bodies and groundwater, and remove lead from the range and recycle it.

Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said state and federal laws do not require range operators to remove lead from the range while it is still operating. But, he said, the DEP encourages ranges “to implement best-management practices that minimize the release of lead into the environment.”

There is concern also for those using the ranges, especially children, who can come into contact with lead through fumes and dust.

The National Association of Shooting Ranges echoes the EPA’s call for better environmental management. On its website, the group warns owners that environmental problems can shut down their ranges and lead to liability for clean-up costs under federal hazardous-waste laws.

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