Originally published Aug. 17, 2017 on the Huntington County Tab
Eugene Lovas, of Metals Treatment Technologies LLC of Arvada, CO (MT2) and Bethany Blicharz, assistant property manager at Roush Fish and Wildlife Area, watch as clean dirt is expelled from a machine being used to remove lead bullets from the backstop of the Roush Shooting Range. Photo by Cindy Klepper.
The shooting range at Huntington’s Roush Fish and Wildlife Area is a popular place. In a slow month, says Assistant Property Manager Bethany Blicharz, the range gets at least 1,000 visitors. During the heat of July, about 1,800 shooters visited the range.
As the weather cools and hunting season approaches, the numbers will increase to 2,000 to 3,000 a month, says Denise Reust, regional office manager at Roush. And that’s been going on since the range opened in August of 2005.
So what happens to all the bullets? Nothing, until now.
The range shut down Aug. 7 for what was expected to be a two-week hiatus, during which time the bullets that had accumulated over the past 12 years were removed from the earthen backdrops. In just the first couple of days, a crew from Colorado filled four 55-gallon barrels with lead bullets, bullet fragments and casings.
Eugene Lovas, of Metals Treatment Technologies LLC, estimated the weight of each barrel at around 3,000 pounds. He’s not sure how many individual bullets that would be, but co-worker Matt Leach hazards a guess.
“It’s a lot,” Leach says. “Hundreds of thousands, I would think.”
This is the first time since the range opened that a lead reclamation project has been undertaken, Reust says. The lead embedded in the soil is an environmental issue, she explains, and standards for shooting ranges call for the bullets to be cleaned out every 10 years or so.
The range is open to all shooters who can use any type of weapon with the exception of a fully automatic gun or anything .50-caliber or bigger.
“They come from all over, other states,” says Blicharz. “There’s a lot of shooting events.” They shoot from stands toward the earthen embankment, which stops the bullets.
The crew from Metals Treatment Technologies uses a bobcat to scoop earth from an embankment. “We’re going into the berms basically two feet deep, or until we don’t see any more bullets,” Lovas says.
The scoops of dirt are loaded into the giant drum of a separating machine. The drum spins around, similar to a drum in a clothes dryer, separating bullets from dirt. Bullets, fragments and casings are blown out one side of the machine, while the clean dirt is carried out the other side. The dirt is then replaced in the backstops. Metals Treatment Technologies will keep the lead to sell for recycling, deducting the payment from the recycling facility from its final bill to Roush. Lovas says there’s no way to tell how much lead will ultimately be removed from the range. “You never know when the lead is going to peter out,” he says. “Nobody can ever predict that.”