Lead contamination

Remember the lead problems that surfaced last year at Southwestern Community College’s firing range? There are more issues now, according to an April 20 report obtained today by The Herald.

ECS Carolinas, an environmental engineering firm retained by SCC, told college administrators there are high concentrations of lead “on the stream bank” and the spread of lead across the bank hasn’t been pinpointed. The Herald has asked SCC administrators for additional information.

The firing range is on county property uphill from the Tuckaseigee River on North River Road and adjacent to the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Plant. SCC previously installed erosion-control fabric and built sediment basins.

Testing at the shooting range followed a series of articles published last year in The Herald that questioned whether lead at the three-decades-old shooting range could pose an environmental hazard.

There was an estimated 60 tons of lead in what an engineer described as a “highly eroding” clay bank used as a backstop. SCC law enforcement trainees and officers from 19 Western North Carolina law enforcement agencies shoot firearms there.

Jackson County leases SCC 18 acres, for $1 a year, for the shooting range.

Under federal rules, lead isn’t a hazardous waste when guns are fired. Once a shooting range is abandoned, however, the lead residue is classified as hazardous waste and must be dealt with. SCC’s lease is good through 2021.

Lead is dangerous and potentially deadly. It’s a naturally occurring element that can prove toxic to humans and wildlife.