It’s a fun day when you hop in the car with your prized guns and head to the shooting range for the day. But have you ever thought about what happens to all those rounds you fire off? Shooting Range Remediation is very important to the environment and to society. Let’s take a look at why and some ways to clean up the range.
Impact of Lead Migration
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Corrective Action at Outdoor Shooting Ranges Guidance Document” states oxidation occurs when lead particles exposed to air results in dissolution when exposed to acidic water. The dissolved lead then migrates through soil, rock fragments, and storm water runoffs into ground water creating health problems for citizens in the area.
Lead migration can cause many health problems for people in the surrounding area of the range including kidney dysfunction, high blood pressure, cognitive and memory issues as well as neurological issues. And not only does the harmful migration affect people, it destructively affects animals as well.
Benefits of Shooting Range Remediation
Shooting range remediation benefits a lot of aspects according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency including the range, the people using it, and others around it. Some benefits are:
With less contamination put into the air and ground, people, animals, and the environment surrounding the range are out of harms way when it comes to lead migration.
Improved Public Relations
A clean and advantageous range will improve public image and lead to customer satisfaction. Most legal and government actions start with citizens so a clean and maintained range will keep those citizens happy and reduce the risk and threat of lead migration issues.
Recycling lead material and fragments usually is at no cost to the range and sometimes actually acquire a profit of the sold reclaimed lead.
When deciding the best way to keep a range clean, consider these factors:
Size of range
A large range has a greater chance of dispersion of damaging lead materials. A smaller range with a more concentrated shotfall area has a smaller risk of migration and allows for easier cleanup.
Depending on the pH levels of the soil at the range, the greater or less chance of lead migration. Lead will react more to acidic conditions, a pH level greater than 8. Soil with more neutral pH levels, 7-8.5, allows for the lead to “bind” to the soil preventing the lead to migrate to the subsurface. The density of the soil also makes a difference. The denser the soil is, the less migration. The more sandy/gravely the soil is, the more migration.
The closer the groundwater is to the surface, the greater potential for dissolved lead to reach the water and spread.
Precipitation and water “provide means by which lead is transferred” meaning the more rain falls on the range, the more likely the lead is to migrate.
Keeping records of the quantity of bullets and shots that come into the range is a good idea. The amount of shots fired is a good estimate of the amount of lead on the range and can help determine when reclamation is needed.
Size of Shots/Bullets
Some technology used for range remediation uses a screening device that scans the range and separates the lead from the soil. Knowing the size of shots used on the range can “maximize the yield of lead shots/bullets” for the machines.
Shot Direction and Pattern
Knowing the shot direction and pattern can help with the effectiveness of containment devices. For example, bullet traps are great for containing shots fired from a specific direction.
Best Management Practices (BMPs)
BMPs are methods used to keep a shooting range clean and prevent lead migration. Here are some effective and simple BMPs commonly used
Earthen Berms and Backups
This is the most common BMP at rifle and pistol ranges. The berms and backups are located directly behind the targets ranging from 15-20 feet high with a slope as steep as possible. These backstops can be as simple as a natural hillside, but must be free of large rock and other debris to prevent ricocheting.
Sand traps are a variation of an earthen berm. These traps are mounds of sand also located directly behind the targets. They are designed to contain, collect, and control lead shots and water access. They are also recommended to be 15-20 feet high with a steep slope. The sand is sifted and removed of any fragments and then reused.
These traps are again directly positioned behind targets. The shots are directed into a “deceleration chamber” and collected into trays at the bottom. When the trays are full, the lead can be taken out and recycled.
Lamella and Rubber Granule Traps
These traps are tightly hanging strips of rubber with a steel backing. They are positioned behind targets or the targets can be mounted right to the traps. These traps decrease back splatter and limit lead dust escaping into the air and ground.
Shock Absorbing Concrete
Shock-absorbing concrete is a fairly technological BMP. This concrete allows for easily reclaiming the lead and after the lead is removed, the concrete can be reused as well for sidewalks and curbs.
Hand Raking and Sifting
This BMP is great for small range and can be done by club members, volunteers or employees. It concentrates on the surface soil and is low technology and low-cost. Different sizes of screens are used for the soil to be sifted through. After the process is finished, the lead can be recycled or reused.
This requires some professional equipment. The vacuum collects lead, soil, and debris. The material is then put through reclamation machinery to separate the lead from everything else. This BMP is great for trap, skeet, and sporting clay ranges.
There are two types of soil washing, wet screening and gravity separation. Wet screening acts much like hand raking and sifting, but on a larger scale. Starting out with large screens, the soil is sifted through continuing on with smaller and smaller screens. Each time the soil is filtered through a screen, the volume of the soil mixture is reduced. The larger lead particles that are left behind from the larger screens can be taken offsite for recycling and the soil can be reused. Gravity separation is for when the lead particles are similar in size to the surrounding soil particles. A wet mixture of soil and lead is placed in a machine where the denser matter of the mixture, the lead, settles to the bottom separating from the soil.
Shooting range remediation is important for its users, owners, surrounding citizens, and the environment. Next time you visit your local shooting range, ask about which BMP they use.
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