By Stephanie Choate
October 17th, 2013
Work at the North Country Sportsman’s Club is back underway after the Development Review Board approved a permit for activities to mitigate lead contamination near the shooting range.
Essentially, the club plans to grade a bowl surrounded by berms to channel rainwater and lead shot into the center of a field, away from the Sucker Brook. The grading, as well as periodic mowing, will make it easier to treat the area with lime, keeping the lead inert. Lead must be activated by something acidic, like rainwater, for toxins to leech off.
The construction is part of a larger effort, worked out with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, to improve soil and water quality. A 2012 DEC study—prompted by complaints from Lead Free Williston, a group of concerned neighbors— found that high levels of lead in a tributary to Sucker Brook were caused by shooting from the club.
The DEC approved an environmental stewardship plan last fall.
Work on grading and filling was begun during the summer, and the shooting stands were repositioned to direct shots away from the headwaters of the Sucker Brook.
The town planning and zoning department initially issued an administrative permit for some of the work, then determined that a discretionary permit was required for the full scope of the work.
Neighbors who attended two DRB meetings on the subject said they were pleased the gun club is taking positive steps, but expressed continuing concerns about lead contamination.
Some called for more town oversight to monitor lead levels moving forward.
Dan Boomhower, who lives on St. George Road, said water is a common resource.
“I think our local government needs to share the responsibility of keeping our water, especially in wells, clean,” he said during the Oct. 8 meeting, as recorded by CCTV. “The town needs to make sure there is local monitoring of the lead collection area.”
He added that if the town is not willing or able to monitor the lead levels moving forward, it should stipulate that a third party collects data and that the data is available to everyone.
Sportsman’s Club representative Tim Riddle said the club is committed to controlling lead pollution.
“We are going to operate responsibly and we are going to make sure that we don’t have any more impact than possible,” said Sportsman’s Club employee Tim Riddle, “…. We’re not only beholden to do this but happy to be doing what we’re doing, because it means we can continue to operate sustainably.”
Some neighbors also expressed concern about whether the fill being used in the project was clean. Mona Boutin, who formed Lead Free Williston with her husband, Leo, and other concerned neighbors, displayed photos of what appeared to be iron rebar in the fill.
Riddle said the Agency of Natural Resources has inspected the site in response to a complaint about the fill, and had the club file an insignificant waste management application.
“They didn’t see it as a big deal,” he said.
As one of the conditions of issuing a permit for the work, the DRB requested a copy of all ANR enforcement actions, and that copies of any ANR documents issued during and after construction are sent to staff. It also included a condition that the property is clearly posted for public safety reasons.