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Ecology to test area around Sunnydell range

Soil and surface water samples were taken Jan. 22 from the property north of the Sunnydell Shooting Range on Dryke Road to be tested for lead contamination.

Those test results, which should be back from the lab in mid-February, will determine the geographical extent of a toxics cleanup project to be supervised by the state Department of Ecology.

"We're just starting with the investigation. We're working with the Clallam County Health Department to conduct an expanded initial investigation on the adjoining property," said Guy Barrett, site manager for the state Department of Ecology.

Investigators are looking at the neighboring property to see if lead contamination from the expended ammunition at the shooting range has migrated through the soil or water, he said.

The next steps will be reaching an agreed order with the property owner to clean up the site, then conducting a remedial investigation and developing a cleanup plan, Barrett said.

"We don't know what we will do for the cleanup. It might just be requiring 'best management practices' or a cleanup. It depends upon what we find," Barrett said.

Ecology will conduct a cleanup anywhere it finds lead that exceeds acceptable levels, he said.

"I've done that for a number of years through a sanctioned lab," said Sunnydell owner Chuck Dryke. "We've taken some tests along the side (that) county tests, so we're up on that investigation.

"We've been here over half a century, so we should live," he said.

Josey Paul, who lives on East Twin River near the site of Clallam County's proposed Sadie Creek shooting range near Joyce, said the air should be tested along with the soil and water.

"Shooting ranges generate the most contaminants in the impact zone and also along the firing line. Primers (the explosive charges that set off the bullets) contain lead compounds that become aerated. Usually the contamination can get up to pretty high levels," he said.

"All the shooting ranges are highly contaminated. Sometimes it can takes decades or centuries for bullets to erode," Paul said.

Clallam County Commissioner Mike Doherty, D-Port Angeles, said the proposed Sadie Creek shooting range shouldn't encounter similar toxic pollution problems.

Brian Gawley can be reached at bgawley@sequim gazette.com.

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