Gun club responsible for lead pollution

Boutin family praises state’s response 

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff


Elevated levels of lead in a tributary of Williston’s Sucker Brook were caused by the shooting practices of the gun club, according to a state study. (Observer photo by Luke Baynes)

Elevated levels of lead in a tributary of Williston’s Sucker Brook were caused by the shooting practices of the North Country Sportsman’s Club, according to a study by the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Waste Management and Prevention Division.

The WMPD study concluded that the lead levels of the tributary located adjacent to the NCSC shooting range off Old Creamery Road “exceed water quality criteria expressed in Vermont Water Quality Standards” and that “it appears that the current shooting range practices do not prevent lead pellets from entering the headwaters of the Sucker Brook Tributary.”

The study did not find excessive lead contamination in the main waters of the Sucker Brook or in samples obtained from a well drilled by the NCSC and a neighboring well on the property of adjacent landowners Mona and Leo Boutin.

In a letter dated Feb. 22, WMPD director George Desch gave the NCSC 30 days to hire a qualified environmental consultant and to develop a plan for mitigating lead impacts in the area. Desch’s letter also noted that to the best of the WMPD’s knowledge, a lead management study and Environmental Stewardship Plan had not been completed by the NCSC from funds it was awarded from a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department grant on Oct. 22, 2010.

In a response letter dated Feb. 29, NCSC President Tom Blair asked to meet with the WMPD and disputed the state’s claim that no work has been done with grant monies.

“I would like to clarify that a substantial amount of work has actually been completed,” Blair wrote. “The water testing was completed in 2011 by ATC Associates, and the soil testing is scheduled to begin as soon as weather and soil conditions permit.”

Blair went on to note that architectural and engineering work has been completed to relocate/reorient the shooting range’s shot-fall zone so that it doesn’t impact the headwater area of the Sucker Brook Tributary.

The state’s interest in the lead issue was prompted by complaints by the Boutin family and Lead Free Williston – a group the Boutins formed with neighbors and other concerned Willistonians.

Mona Boutin, in a Feb. 26 email to the Observer, said she was pleased by the outcome of the state’s tests.

“We are extremely happy to have the ANR (Agency of Natural Resources) involved, and understand that this is a big step towards getting our land and water cleaned up from the lead pollutants,” Boutin wrote. “This land is part of our lives, and has been for five generations. We are looking forward to working and enjoying it without the fear of health issues for our livestock, ourselves, our grandchildren and generations to come.”

The Boutins had earlier sought the intervention of Williston town officials in the lead dispute.

Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire, who had previously expressed the need for a qualified consultant to perform independent testing of the area in question, told the Williston Selectboard at its Feb. 27 meeting that the state’s involvement in the lead issue is the best possible outcome for the town, due to the fact that lead pollution falls under the state’s purview.

“It seems like the state has taken the ball on this, which is a good thing,” said McGuire. “It’s their jurisdiction.”