Shooting range cleanup to cost Forest Service nearly $1 million

Bullet contamination

Chris Abalo from Glendora, Calif., in August 2003 takes aim in the Arizona Small Bore Championship at the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club, off Iron Springs Road near Granite Basin.

Chris Abalo from Glendora, Calif., in August 2003 takes aim in the Arizona Small Bore Championship at the Prescott Sportsmen’s Club, off Iron Springs Road near Granite Basin.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service expects to pay $980,000 to remove contaminated soil where the former Prescott Sportsmen’s Club Shooting Range (PSC) site existed off Iron Springs and North Granite Basin roads near the Wildwood Estates subdivision. The Forest Service and PSC identified high lead levels in the soil after 57 years’ use as a shooting range.


United States Forest Service officials Ernest Del Rio, Steve Sams and Doug Vandergone walk the Prescott Sportmens Shooting range with National Rifle Association advisor Don Stehsel on Friday, December 28, 2001.

The Forest Service collected soil and sediment samples in 2002, 2007 and 2016, and determined levels exceeded the Arizona Residential Soil Remediation Level (RSRL) for lead, set at 400 mg/kg.

Test results – six soil and sediment samples – from 2002 indicated lead concentrations up to 10,000 mg/kg. In 2007, an X-ray fluorescence instrument found lead concentration levels up to 15,600 mg/kg in 21 samples. Most recently, 408 samples of up to 28,000 mg/kg classified the soils as hazardous waste.

The Club operated the shooting range under a special use permit that expired Dec. 31, 2014. The Forest Service no longer permits shooting sports activities at the site, and PSC has since moved to Chino Valley. Prior to closing, 1,500 to 3,000 visitors typically used the site, stated the Forest Service Removal Action Approval Memorandum dated Nov. 21.

“The range is currently inactive and not open to the public; however, the site is accessible to hikers, visitors and the nearby community,” the memo indicated.

The nearest Wildwood Estates home to the 25-acre former shooting range is 130 feet from the range’s boundary.

The Club removed its structures and facilities in 2015, “but did not have the funds to conduct a cleanup of the soil,” the memo stated, and remediation action could not wait until money became available.

So who will pay for the cleanup?

Prescott National Forest (PNF) District Ranger Sarah Tomsky said the USDA Forest Service’s Southwestern Regional Office will pay a contractor $667,000 to treat and remove the hazardous material as well as site restoration work. The same agency and PNF paid $62,000 for the Environmental Evaluation/Cost Analysis performed by HelioTech, which estimated it would take between $1 million and $1.9 million to rid the site of lead contamination.

“The Prescott Sportsmen’s Club is no longer associated with, nor responsible for, the shooting range property at the old Granite Basin area,” said Tim Kulow, PSC range director, on Wednesday, Jan. 4. “The PNFS is responsible for that property now.”

The remediation work will involve: (1) soil excavation and onsite soil treatment, (2) off-site transport and disposal of treated and untreated soil in a licensed waste management facility, (3) backfill with clean native soil and contour of excavated areas, and (4) seed and mulch surface areas with native vegetation. To further stabilize the soil in the firing lanes and berms, the contractor will apply a lime treatment to the surface area and seed with native vegetation.

During the public review and comment period this past summer, the Forest Service responded to citizens’ questions. One person was concerned that the Forest Service would develop the land after completing the clean-up process. It has no such plans, the FS report of Oct. 11 stated.

The Sierra Club Yavapai asked about environmental issues and studies. The EE/CA determined that lead in elevated concentrations present in soil and sediment had migrated via surface water pathways into tributaries to Willow Creek, which is about one-half mile downstream from the site. Willow Creek is a tributary to Granite Creek. If not mitigated, the lead levels may present an “imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, welfare or environment,” the memo stated.

Possible recycling of bullet fragments and shot pellets was not an economical alternative to the proposed clean-up process, which answered another resident’s question.

The Forest Service found no endangered species and did not identify any cultural resources. A National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study, therefore, was not necessary.

Clean up should begin this spring and take about 75 days to complete.

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