- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—REDDING, California — In a sign they won’t back down, Mary Lake homeowners, concerned about bullets escaping and accumulating on the ground from the nearby shooting range used by law enforcement, are looking to open their properties to lead contamination soil tests.

The Neighborhood Association for Peace and Safety’s steps could prove costly for the Shasta County Peace Officers Association, the organization that owns and operates the Record Range Training Facility, and the dozen or so law enforcement groups that train there.

The findings may be the grounds for an environmental suit that could wind up in federal court.

The attorney representing the group said his clients are not running to court tomorrow, but they want the SCPOA and law enforcement agencies that use the facility to take responsibility and step up.

“These are people who risk their lives to protect us, and we are supporters of them,” Walt McNeill said of the officers who train at the range, “and it’s hard to believe that they do things (that would) endanger the lives” of others.

He argued the hazardous waste from spent bullets is a real issue that Record Range has ignored for decades, and all agencies using the range bear responsibility in correcting the problem and other safety issues.

McNeill, who sometimes represents the Record Searchlight, was retained by NAPS last week. As part of his first meeting with the residents he walked their properties, and within a 15-minute period, they found with a hobby metal detector three bullets at the Brinn Drive property belonging to Pete Bohatsch.

Bohatsch, at meetings this year before the Redding City Council and Shasta County Board of Supervisors, displayed a plastic bag that contained more than 70 bullets he has recovered around his home.

The SCPOA’s attorney, Jody Burgess, has been in court Oakland since last week. Monday evening he responded to an email and offered to comment on the matter on Wednesday.

McNeill contends the range does not follow best practices, as laid out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He said the problem at the range is threefold:

Ricochets from the pistol range on the east side of the facility are still falling into the neighborhood. The bullet traps the SCPOA has talked about adding to the three firing ranges are not designed or built by people with known expertise in outdoor ranges.

Lead has been deposited in the soil since the range opened in 1950 along the power line easement and a swath of land where there are houses. There are at least 10 parcels, mostly on Brinn Drive, known to have confirmed findings of spent bullets or shards.

The rifle range has a direct line of sight to the Westside Trail system, with nothing but air and foliage in between. Mountain bikers have reported shots whizzing by them.

SCPOA leaders have questioned whether recent finds of stray bullets are from the range. But McNeill said the suggestion the shells came from someplace else is “denial mentality” and a red herring.

At issue are the toxic effects of lead, especially with young children playing in backyards, and what lead deposits may mean for property values, he said.

“If you were to sell your house, you could not legally sell it without disclosing that you have hazardous waste on your property in the form of bullets,” McNeill said.

The Record Range lists at least 14 member agencies.

They are: Anderson and Redding police departments; California Highway Patrol; Redding Fire Department; Shasta Lake Animal Control; Shasta County Superior Court Marshal’s Office, District Attorney’s Office and Probation Department; California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; Department of Justice; Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

McNeill said there are at least 40 lots, roughly between Brinn and Lakeside and Kilkee and Quinton drives, that need to be tested. Soil tests would be done until lead is not found. It may be weeks or months before work concludes, he said.

NAPS also is considering water quality tests.

In February the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board took water samples of the range’s retention pond and tributaries that lead to Mary Lake.

Test results showed 6.9 micrograms of lead per liter, or parts per billion, at the pond. The maximum contaminant level, or action level for lead, is 15 parts per billion.

Leaving the pond, the results were 3.0 parts per billion, and upstream from the pond, it registered the lowest at 1.2 parts per billion, he said.

“You could drink water with these concentrations in it, and it wouldn’t be harmful. Obviously, we wouldn’t advise people to do it, but that’s what the levels mean,” said Clint Snyder, an assistant executive officer who manages the water agency’s Redding office.

He anticipated the concentration levels would be further reduced at the lake but acknowledged his office has not done a comprehensive analysis of surrounding properties.

He said the office would do one if there is reason to believe the public is in danger and citizens requested it, noting that such studies have been done for other properties.

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(c)2015 the Redding Record Searchlight (Redding, Calif.)

Visit the Redding Record Searchlight (Redding, Calif.) at www.redding.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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