Early warning signs that indicate the possible contamination of a firing range may not appear obvious. Yes, there is the puff of smoke after the discharge of weapon which is usually swept away down range by the employment of an effective air system. In open ranges, the winds serve the same purpose. But that lead goes somewhere, and where it lands isn’t necessarily where the first signs of contamination are occurring. More obvious, bullet fragments and pellets from shotguns are much easier to spot, signaling a possible contamination problem.
Dealing with lead contamination is like fighting an octopus. There are so many arms of contamination that the problem seems almost insurmountable. Problems that plague indoor ranges don’t necessarily challenge outdoor ranges and certain guns are likely to cause more contamination than others. Air systems and other technological equipment employed to deal with lead contamination are also part of the equation and the fight.
Given all these considerations and more, the place to look for the initial signs of lead contamination come from inspections and cleanup operations. It is during these procedures that lead contamination is identified and some similarities arise, indicating a commonality that provides a small but promising path to battling lead contamination and poisoning.
“While soil remediation at the park is not set to begin until next spring, tree removal is expected to begin this year at the 7.5-acre site, formerly home to a shooting range,” as the EPA reportedly stated to the Dayton Daily News. What is so important in this statement is that both soil and trees, emphasis added, need removal. This outdoor range in Miami, FL tested at lead levels more than 60 times the acceptable level and impacted the area throughout the park and nearby homes.
The “string”, when pulled, that draws the various considerations of lead contamination together is the spreading of the lead. This holds true for an indoor range. Cleaning of indoor ranges requires washing surfaces – that includes not just counter tops but walls and ceilings. Any build up is a definite clue that the contamination risk is increasing.
As with the indoor example, any build up on surfaces strongly points to the air system and fans that are deployed to remediate lead particulates from spreading. It may also present as an indicator of poor maintenance practices. “A 2011 publication by the National Shooting Sports Foundation summarizes the OSHA General Industry Lead Standard . . . explains that clothing exposed to lead should not have lead dust shaken or blown off, but instead be immediately disposed in wash water,” as reported in The Altamont Enterprise. By extension, surfaces should also receive the same treatment.
Just by the outdoor range example, it is easy to conclude that the presence of any firing range is the first clue to contamination. Ranges and shooting are part of the nation’s history and recreational enjoyment involving millions of Americans. Yet, the enjoyment by millions should impose a duty to prevent little or no risk to anyone. It mandates proactive precaution and implementing those measures that promise safe results for all.
Lead, Lead, Lead! Problems with Soil Remediation at Small Arms Firing Ranges
Small Arms Firing Ranges (SAFRs) include most shooting ranges inside the United States. These ranges accept any guns that shoot equal to or below 50 caliber ammunition. There are approximately 12,000 of these ranges throughout the US, some belonging to the Department of Defense. Ammunition is composed of many parts, but lead contamination is at the forefront of environmental concerns for these businesses. While these ranges have recently become aware of and implemented methods to control lead contamination, there is much to be desired, especially with regards to soil remediation.
Lead Contamination and Soils
Lead in soil presents special environmental problems. When lead from ammunition meets soil, a chemical reaction called corrosion takes place. This creates a toxic environment. Lead contamination should worry all range goers for several reasons:
- Uncontaminated soil soaks up lead quickly.
- Contaminated soil cannot soak up lead, which leads to leaching into the surrounding environment.
Furthermore, lead presents many health problems for both patrons and employees of the range; health problems associated can affect every major system of the body, with particularly bad consequences for children.
Problems with Best Management Practices
The EPA released a document outlining best management practices for lead remediation at outdoor shooting ranges. Proper attention to lead management at firing ranges is critical.
Firing Ranges, A Necessity for National Security
Most individuals who actively shoot know that bullets contain lead. Because government officials must be properly trained to use their weapons and be an accurate shot. National security depends on it. However, many ignore the very real environmental cost associated with firing ranges, regardless of whether it’s on public or private land.
Lead Contamination on Firing Ranges
Bullets have been made from lead for centuries, dating back to around 1500. The design of bullets has not changed dramatically because it works quite well as is. However, the EPA and OSHA both consider lead to be a toxic substance. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease registry classifies lead as an inorganic substance that can be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” as well describing known health hazards from exposure to lead. Because of how we produce bullets, lead contamination is a major concern for firing ranges. It can affect the air, soil, and be absolutely devastating if it reaches the water table, as seen with the recent fiasco in Flint, Michigan.
The Cost of Cleaning Up Lead Contamination
One method of soil remediation is to remove lead contaminated soil and replace it with non-contaminated soil. Unfortunately, excavation and replacement efforts cost thousands of dollars. For example, a former range for Border Patrol officers is being cleaned up to the tune of just over $3.7 million. A member of the Sierra Club suggests this price seems exorbitant for simple excavation; however, removed soils must be taken to a hazardous waste facility. Officials declined to comment on exactly why this project cost so much, though. This seems to be a common trend seen on old Army bases. Regardless of whether the cost is justified or not, it is clear that lead contamination and the resulting remediation efforts are costly, with potentially lasting health effects.
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