While bullet casings and lead from bullets could be removed in a containment system or bullet trap, there are absolutely no guarantees that airborne lead dust can be contained in an outdoor range. Indoor ranges include expensive ventilation systems to trap the poisonous lead in the air. Airborne lead escaping from the proposed, open-air range could have a devastating impact on many people’s health.
It should be noted that families in the immediate, surrounding area all use wells for their water supply. There is also a creek in close proximity to the proposed range. It’s a tributary of Rippin Run which is in turn a tributary to the Rapidan River. This creek is actually just downhill from the site, so it will be collecting lead contaminated runoff from the soil in the surrounding area and passing it on downstream.
The farm property it is proposed to sit on is also running cattle. Lead is the most common form of cattle poisoning. There have been cases of mass cattle euthanasia after they’ve been exposed to lead poisoning from nearby gun ranges. Will those cattle be feeding on the grasses? Will they be drinking the water contaminated with lead? Will they then be going to the market?
From the EPA’s BMP for Lead in Outdoor Shooting Ranges:
Lead oxidizes when exposed to air and dissolves when exposed to acidic water or soil. Clays have a high ionic lead bonding capacity and more surface area to which the lead can bond. Also, groundwater movement in clay is very slow, which increases the contact time for lead to bond to the clay. Low permeability reduces the amount of historical leaching and increases the probability of the presence of basic (pH-increasing) minerals that can precipitate out of solution in groundwater or cause the lead to bond to the clay. All of the basic calcium and related minerals generally will have been removed from the clean silica sand and gravel soils, so the lead in solution in groundwater in these type soils can move long distances (miles) through the ground relatively unchanged.
The Greene Comprehensive Plan (Natural Resources and Environment Section) clearly states that maintaining clean water is a priority. It stands to reason that the range owner and the County may be legally liable for any breach of the containment system or lead dust proliferation. Will they be willing to take on the responsibility for annual well water checks for the 100+ residents in the surrounding area?
Shooting Ranges Know the Danger
It is well documented for shooting range best practices that people avoid eating at ranges, change their clothes and wash them separately after visiting ranges, and shower afterwards to reduce lead dust contamination. Clearly there is no way to fully contain harmful lead. Lead dust emanating from a 20-lane gun range and residential areas nearby is not a good mix and poses a significant legal risk to both the range and the County.
Greene County officials need to do the right thing and recommend that the proposal be rescinded or outright reject it. There are just too many health, safety, environmental, legal, and quality of life issues associated with a range at this location.