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Jul 21, 2001


Shooters Polluting With Lead
By JAN HOLLINGSWORTH
[email protected]

ST. PETERSBURG - If anyone ever had concerns about the Skyway Trap and Skeet Club, they centered on the ear-splitting crack of rifles, or the prospect of stray bullets.

No one considered the silent hazard posed by more than half a century's worth of spent ammunition releasing toxic lead and arsenic into the ground, water and air.

That changed Friday, when a Pinellas County Health Department worker began canvassing neighborhoods within a four-mile radius of the outdoor shooting range, which is located off Gandy Boulevard and U.S. 19.

Alice Davis passed out bright yellow leaflets advising families to get their children tested for exposure to ``significant'' amounts of lead found on the range and in adjacent Sawgrass Lake park.

The toxic metal was found more than a year ago in soil, as well as surface and groundwater. The health department learned of it this week, when consumer advocates advised them of a lawsuit filed in April by state environmental regulators seeking to shut down the shooting range.

``We are going to do a lot of outreach now that we know about it,'' said Davis, a member of the health department's lead intervention team.

Shooting ranges - both outdoor and indoor - are significant sources of lead pollution and poisoning, according to a report made public Friday by the Florida Consumer Action Network.

The report, called ``Poisonous Pastime,'' was produced by the independent watchdog Environmental Working Group and the Violence Policy Center, a national gun control organization.

The well-documented danger of lead poisoning extends not only to those who use shooting ranges, but to the shooters' families and ``a surprising range of third parties,'' the report says.

``Because lead dust settles on clothing, shoes and accessories worn or used at the range, the families of persons who work at or use firing ranges also are subject to `take home' exposure to lead dust,'' it says.

Among the shooting range- related lead poisoning incidents cited in the report is the 1992 case of a Clearwater day care center that was forced to close after it was discovered that a neighboring indoor shooting range was venting lead-contaminated air into the center's playground area.

Levels of lead in the air near the vent were 8,000 times higher than state standards allow.

Contamination at the St. Petersburg range came to light in November 1999, when Florida Department of Environmental Protection workers took samples in the ``drop zone'' where bullets and target debris land in and beyond an easement located in Sawgrass Lake park.

The DEP complaint alleges that the ``significant'' amount of lead and arsenic contaminating soil, surface and groundwater at the range and in the adjacent park poses ``an imminent hazard'' to humans and wildlife.

Rob Kelly, a lawyer for Holland and Knight who represents the shooting club, disputes the notion of imminent harm.

``It's not a situation where people drink out of the [lake] water,'' Kelly said.

A DEP report suggests the danger lies not only in water and soil, but airborne lead dust. It notes a mobile home and RV resort located next to the shooting range.

About 202 people live within a quarter-mile of the site, with approximately 166,959 people living within four miles, the report says.

Children are at highest risk for developmental and neurological damage from lead. Learning disabilities are a common result of low-level lead poisoning.

``The earlier you can detect lead in children, the quicker you can get it out of their system before permanent damage is done,'' said Davis.

Sheryl Good, advised Friday of the health department's concerns, said she plans to have her 10-year-old daughter's blood tested for lead. The youngster's memory is impaired and she had been placed in special classes at school for years, Good said.

Good has lived on a quiet street neighboring the shooting range for 17 years. She used to run a home babysitting service that featured twice-weekly field trips to Sawgrass Lake park.

``We practically lived there,'' Good said. ``The kids loved it.''

Part of the Sawgrass Lake parcel was owned by the shooting club until 1976, when the Southwest Florida Water Management District condemned and purchased it for use as a flood control area.

A judge granted the club a 14-acre easement where spent ammunition could land. Last year, Swiftmud filed a lawsuit trying to get it back because of the lead contamination.

Swiftmud had previously dug a canal through the drop zone as part of the park's water management plan.

Millions of decaying bullets not only leached lead and arsenic into the soil and groundwater, but washed into the lake by way of the canal.

``If Swiftmud had left the land in a natural state as it existed, we may not have this problem,'' said Kelly.

The club is still open for business on weekends, but has drastically scaled back its operations as a result of the lawsuit filed last year by the water management district, Kelly said.

The DEP litigation, which seeks an injunction to close the range as well as clean it up, has not yet come to trial.

Meanwhile, the shooting range owners have informally explored remedies with DEP ranging from erecting screens to capturing spent bullets and selling them as scrap, to relocating the range to an abandoned, lined landfill that will prevent the toxic compounds from leaking into soil and water.

``They're simply a group of people who have been shooting like they have for the past 50 years and would like to continue to do so. They're not out to damage the environment by any stretch of the imagination,'' Kelly said.


Reporter Jan Hollingsworth can be reached at (813)259-7607.

This story can be found at : http://www.tampatrib.com/nationworldnews/MGAIOSVWEPC.html
 

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Sure enough!  More ammo for the anti's!  

Funny thing, the last time I checked, lead was a naturally occurring element, listed in the periodic table of elements, and mined, often in a very pure state, from the ground!  Imagine that, lead in the ground!   Maybe someone should sue God for making the earth with lead at all!

Oops!  I'm about to step up to a soapbox, so I'll quit!

Thanks Ray for the article!

God Bless,

Marshall
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I guess they will also have to close down all the National Civil War Battlefields with all that nasty lead in the ground there!

This is a totally bogus case for nothing more than making it more difficult for gunowners to use their firearms.

It's for the children you know.


Regards
 

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These are exactly the kinds of arguments we must make at every turn to prevent this nonsense from taking hold in the body politick. There is infinitly more lead in water and gas pipes under our homes than we shooters could redeposit in a thousand years. Yet do we hear a clamor to uproot our picture perfect, surburban soccer mom's lawns to "protect the children?"
I think not.

Be ever vigilent.
 

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Let me tell you a true story...There was an old gun club, near the landfill (dump) in Manatee County. The "powers-to be" wanted the land to extend the landfill before new (and stronger rules about the landfill bottom) came in effect!!!!
They forced the gun clib out, but promised to replaced the land. The gun club finally picked a place (5 miles or more out of town) and told the country. That didn't work because they said it was in a water shed. Then representatives of the gun club began reasearch on just how far lead oxide would travel in the ground. The best example came from England where a large church (some 400 years old) had a lead roof......you guessed it, less than 10 feet feom where the water from the roof drained! It was later discovered that, in most cases, the lead traces found in water areas, came not from lead oxide, but rather found chemical waste that had been dumped.
I know the area referred to in the article as well as the Old Skyway Gun Club. The entire area around the Tampa Bay, marshes, and creeks are full of pollutants from dumping junk in the bay over the years. It was even found, that at one time the Coast Guard, was dumping their worn out batteries in the bay hundreds of them were found)! If they have found lead oxide in dangerous levels you can bet it didn't come from the gun club! The real culprits will (and have) go underground and use the gun club as its scrapegoat!
They have tried to get scallops to grow in the bay for years and they just die out! Most of the bay is closed to claming....wonder why? I have an idea the gun club might beat this wrap with the knowledge gained so far elsewhere down there. But......You can bet the antigun newspaper will never carry the story if they do bet it!
Best Regards, James
 

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I have another true story. Fort Meade, MD has had gun ranges, everything from 100 inch (machinegun) ranges to a huge 600 m and sniper courses, AND a trap and skeet range. The ranges were given to US F&W service in 1990 sometime as a result of downsizing etc. The Fish & WIldlife service eventually closed the skeet range due to birds allegedly ingesting lead shot etc. The next agenda they took on was to disallow use of lead on pistol ranges because of the threat of lead contamination. THe EPA came in and did a lot of testing. The ranges are all located very near to a wetlands area that forms the headwaters of the Patuxent River. Even with constant monitoring etc., only trace amounts of lead were ever found to leach into the surrounding area. The US F&W found that they couldn't use the EPA study as a reason to close the ranges, so they then embarked on an EPA recommendation to clean up the ranges. Only two ranges are left where anyone can shoot lead ammunition, and these are where the local police units etc. are allowed to practice (F&W bows to political pressure, obviously). One might think that the rules would now allow lead as long as the lead is going into a recoverable area; but no, F&W does the opposite - they say lead is okay on the last two ranges as long as the lead is disbursed over a very wide area (meaning, through targets and into the woods as opposed to shooting into the berm at the end of the range) Go figure.
 
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