Tag Archives: Soil contamination

Kitsap gun club withdraws from toxic cleanup program

Kitsap Rifle and Revolver Club has decided against undertaking a formal environmental cleanup of its property on Seabeck Highway — at least not any time soon, according to club officials.

The property is listed as a “hazardous site” by the Washington Department of Ecology, mostly because of lead and metals associated with shooting activities. The club had entered into the state’s Voluntary Cleanup Program — which puts a property owner in charge of the cleanup — but then withdrew from the program in late October.

Marcus Carter, executive officer for KRRC, told me that the club had been assured by state officials that if it entered the Volunteer Cleanup Program, it would not be placed on the state’s Hazardous Sites List.

“But they went ahead and ranked us anyway,” he said.

Map

I wrote about that ranking in the Kitsap Sun in January of 2013. The gun range was rated a “2” on a scale from 1 to 5, with “1” being the worst. I noted in the story that many sites ranked a “2” go without action for years. KRRC later disputed the ranking, saying available evidence should place it no higher than a “3.”

A letter written in October by Bruce Danielson (PDF 889 kb), attorney for the club, explained why KRRC was withdrawing from the program. He also noted, “Our voluntary participation has been an unacceptable drain on valuable resources that KRRC can no long afford to expend for no purpose.”

As an example of wasteful spending, Danielson cited a charge for a “fraudulent” phone call from the state Attorney General’s Office related to the site. The unwarranted billing was dropped, he noted, but only after significant effort by club officials.

Marcus Carter said he realizes that the shooting range could get stuck on the “Hazardous Sites List” for many years, similar to the situation with the Navy’s Camp Wesley Harris. The abandoned shooting range on Navy property also was ranked a “2.” Other than an initial cleanup, the Navy has taken no steps to get the property removed from the list. For a full list of hazardous sites, download the latest Hazardous Sites List (PDF 535 kb).

Marcus said the club initiated an extensive recycling program years ago to regularly remove lead and other contaminants from earthen berms that stop the bullets. The only contamination outside the range itself are small amounts of materials where shooting took place years ago, he said.

“Nothing is leaving our property,” Marcus insisted. “There have been no suggestions from DOE to make our operations more efficient or to do anything differently.”

As described in a Kitsap Sun story in April of 2012, the gun club has been following an approach generally accepted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency:

“The club has relied on using EPA’s ‘best management practices’ to avoid being deemed a hazardous waste site subject to cleanup. State law does not include such provisions, but Ecology endorses EPA’s suggested practices, which are outlined in a 1997 letter written by Jeff Hannapel in EPA’s Office of Solid Waste.”

I then quoted from the Hannapel’s letter:

“The agency has taken the position that the discharge of ammunition or lead shot does not constitute hazardous waste disposal, because the agency does not consider the rounds from the weapons to be ‘discarded.’ Furthermore, the lead shot has not been ‘discarded’ by virtue of its discharge at the shooting range, because the discharge is within the normal and expected use pattern of the manufactured product. Accordingly, lead shot would be considered scrap metal for regulatory purposes.”

Ecology officials admit that they don’t have enough money to force property owners to clean up the most-contaminated sites, let alone those lower on list.

For several years, the group CK Safe and Quiet, which includes residents living near the shooting range, has been urging Ecology to get the site cleaned up. The group has expressed concerns about contamination leaving the site and getting into nearby waterways.

In 2011, the organization filed a notice saying it would sue for cleanup under the federal Clean Water Act, which allows citizen-initiated lawsuits. I mentioned the claims in a Kitsap Sun article at the time.

The group never filed the federal case, pending legal action against the club by Kitsap County, which focused on land-use and noise issues. A ruling in the county’s case was recently handed down by the Washington State Court of Appeals. See Kitsap Sun story by reporter Josh Farley.

Some members of CK Safe and Quiet say they are now considering a renewal of their Clean Water Act claims. Ryan Vancil, an attorney who wrote the 2011 letter (PDF 134 kb), no longer represents the group, but members are consulting with a new lawyer.

Ecology plans toxic cleanup at Hansville store

It’s amazing how many sites in Washington state are contaminated with toxic chemicals and waiting for cleanup. It’s equally amazing how much it costs to get this kind of work done.

In Kitsap County alone, there are about 100 contaminated sites identified and ranked on a scale from one to five. See the most recent Hazardous Sites List for a local and statewide tally.

Vicinity and estimated extent of contamination near Hansville store (Click to enlarge)
Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

Some sites are relatively small; others are large and complex. Some are owned by governments; others are owned by private owners. A few of the older ones are privately owned, yet the state is on the hook to clean them up, because the property owner had inherited the problem and Ecology agreed to pick up the cost. (As I understand it, Ecology is no longer approving such agreements.)

That kind of agreement, called a consent decree, is how the Department of Ecology came to be responsible for the cleanup of Hansville General Store. In 1991, the store owners agreed to allow access to the property for cleanup, and Ecology agreed to do the work, using money from its Toxics Control Account. Since then, the account has been raided to help out the state’s general fund.

State funding has never been available to clean up very many sites on its list, but Ecology recently received a federal stimulus grant that allows it to clean up a number of properties. One of those proposed is the Hansville store, where the cleanup is estimated to cost $1.1 million.

For details, see the story I wrote this week for the Kitsap Sun; check out Ecology’s Web site for the project; or attend a meeting tomorrow night from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hansville Community Center.

In comments at the bottom of my story, a few people questioned why the cost is so high. According to Ecology documents, reasons include the extent of the contamination, the need to tear up Twin Spits Road and the need to replace a water line. Download a rough estimate of the various costs found in an appendix to the remedial investigation/feasibility analysis (PDF 76 kb).

What is the risk to people and the environment?

According to Ecology documents, soils and groundwater are contaminated at shallow levels, so human and animal exposures can come from direct contact as well as from vapors in the air. The study mentions that toxic vapors could come up through the floor of the store. Other concerns focus on an old concrete-asbestos water pipe that serves the area, which could allow chemicals to get into the drinking water.