Firing Ranges and Lead Contamination
Lead bullets go with firing ranges like wooden spoons go with kitchens — both have been around and used for a long, long time. However, firing ranges have a unique responsibility in gun range lead clean-up to prevent overexposure to lead, which both the EPA and OSHA deem a hazardous substance. Ranges get contaminated through the firing of these bullets. The lead dust from firing can be far-flung, contaminating the building, site, and even surrounding neighborhoods if the range is an open one.
If your shooters or employees exhibit these signs, it’s time to get some testing done. Lead exposure can affect the:
- brain, causing memory loss, lack of concentration, headaches, irritability, and depression;
- cardiovascular system, causing unexplained high blood pressure;
- digestive system, resulting in nausea, kidney malfunction, and poor appetite;
- reproductive system, causing spontaneous miscarriages in women and decreased sex drive in men;
- muscular system, causing fatigue, joint pain, and muscle pain;
- nervous system, resulting in pain and numbness in the extremities.
Firing Ranges in the News
Recently, several towns have come under fire for their shooting ranges; they are costly to clean up or have to be shut down altogether. Ranges in Sacramento, California, Lawrence, Kansas and Miami Township, Ohio can all speak to the dangers and costs of lead contamination by shooting ranges. Violations of either EPA or OSHA guidelines seem exorbitant at hundreds of thousands of dollars, but cleanup with their oversight can run in excess of the range’s insured liability, often exceeding 5 million dollars. Leaked lead from ranges poses a special threat to children, and once lead contaminates and area, it could leave it unsafe to access for months or even years at a time.
Fragmentation in the Lead Remediation Industry
Fragmentation in the environmental lead remediation industry is widespread. Agencies are working at cross-purposes, regulations and laws are complex and do not always work together, and methods are not standardized across federal, state, and local governments.
Regulations from the federal government and the states describe lead remediation as solid, water based, or air based, to meet requirements of the current Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and EPA guidelines for disposal of solid hazardous waste. But lead does not affect just one of these environments. Solid lead from bullets and bullet fragments from a firing range contaminates groundwater and watersheds after rain with storm runoff. Lead contaminated soil blows in the wind and can be breathed in or land on other, noncontaminated soil. Different agencies and organizations are responsible for their section of monitoring and remediation, but the environment doesn’t have boundaries between air, water, and soil. A holistic management program needs to be developed that can address the complex environmental remediation issues of lead in the environment.
The EPA has developed a statistical model for estimating children’s blood lead levels based on lead in the air, water, and soil in a contaminated site. This model, the Integrated Exposure Uptake Biokinetic Model, is being used in neighborhoods near Superfund cleanup sites to estimate danger to children and adults in the vicinity. While the model does appear to be successful in estimating blood lead levels, with a range of acceptable exposure of less than 5% of children in the vicinity with lead blood levels at the level to cause neurological damage, the model is complicated to use and at this point has only been used by specialists during Superfund site cleanups. A model needs to be developed and tested that can be used for smaller site remediation projects, by nonspecialists.
A third problem is disparate regulations depending on ownership of the firing range. Each branch of the military has their own firing ranges, and each are responsible for site remediation. There are specific federal regulations detailing how contaminated sites on old military facilities need to be cleaned up before the land is returned to the community. Other federal law enforcement agencies have their own firing ranges, with agency specific guidelines for monitoring and remediation. State law enforcement agencies have their own sites and regulations, and privately owned firing ranges have theirs. Lands that were once federal lands and are now conservation areas, and that were used for bombing practice and other military exercises, have their own set of complex regulations. Mining companies who left slag and other solid hazardous waste, including lead, behind when their companies went out of business also present jurisdictional headaches.
MT2 is the Leading and Largest Nationwide Professional Lead Reclamation & Maintenance Contractor for BOTH Indoor & Outdoor Firing Ranges and has served over 1,200 public and private firing ranges nationwide since 2000. MT2’s firing range services include complete range maintenance, improvements and lead remediation services.
MT2’s extensive list of clients includes over 400 law enforcement agencies such as NYPD, State Departments of Corrections, and the US Military. Since 2006, MT2 has been implementing a BMP Program for lead management and maintenance that successfully reduces lead hazards at the NYPD training range where over 40,000 officers and recruits train annually. The NYPD BMP Program includes removal and recycling of lead bullets and bullet fragments; sampling, analysis and monitoring of soil and groundwater conditions; and chemically converting potential leachable lead fines remaining in range soils utilizing MT2’s patented ECOBOND® lead treatment technologies so that treated soils are considered non-hazardous and can be replaced back onto range berms.
Contact us today to see how we can help your range and shooters stay safe