ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Nov. 11, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Residents of St. Petersburg, Florida have lost control over the management of hazardous waste from shooting ranges. The city's 90-year-old main water transmission line carries potable water through property owned by the Skyway Gun Club, which has been contaminated with roughly 10,000 tons of lead shot over years of target practice. The EPA ordered an emergency assessment of the area in 2000, which confirmed the presence of hazardous levels of lead and arsenic in Sawgrass Lake's soil, surface water, and ground water, and consequently mandated cleanup efforts costing $23 million.
In response, the National Rifle Association pushed Florida legislature to pass a bill granting Florida gun ranges immunity for similar lead pollution, making it a misdemeanor for state officials to bring claims against shooting ranges in the state of Florida, and shifting the financial burden of cleanup onto taxpayers. As a result, the subsequent cleanup operations at Skyway were not subject to official scrutiny or oversight, leaving the club free to conduct cleanup in whatever manner it chose. Cleanup crews deposited contaminated soil in several locations across the state, including a city landfill, a topsoil company, a farm, and a second gun range which is using the soil to create a berm in violation of federal law (RCRA Subtitles C and D).
In the process of cleanup and renovations, the portion of the city's main water transmission line passing through Skyway gun property was excavated, and its easement backfilled with hazardous soil from the gun club. Workers accidentally separated a section of the pipe while rerouting, forcing it to be reassembled and patched, as the crew had not ordered enough piping for a proper repair job. As such, the easement designed to prevent contaminants from entering the city's water transmission line is now, itself, contaminated with dangerous levels of lead. The FDEP says that the lead levels on the gun club property, where the water main easement is located, contain soil and ground water levels 8,000 times over the limit and pose an imminent threat to wildlife and humans.
While the city of St. Petersburg has so far taken no action over this health hazard, or the illegality of backfilling the easement with hazardous waste, the lead contaminants at Sawgrass Lake pose a threat through other avenues of exposure. The nearby John Anderson Environmental Educational Center routinely welcomes groups of children on school-sponsored field trips. During these educational outings, children are invited to perform water quality tests of their own, exposing them to lead levels thousands of times higher than what the EPA regards as the upper threshold level. While lead exposure in general constitutes a health hazard, the potential health risks are especially great for developing children, leading St. Petersburg's citizens to protest the city's inaction.
Additional television news coverage of this story can be viewed here:
St. Pete water line buried in lead-contaminated soil
After months of denial by city staff, councilors learned a water main is under a gun club that used lead shot for years.
City attorney clarifies wrong info on lead at gun club
St Petersburg Council is finally learning the truth about high concentrations of lead on the Skyway Trap and Skeet Club.
SOURCE Environmental Citizens, LLC