If the average little .22 rimfire lead bullet weighs 40 grains, how many must be fired to equal 1,000 pounds? (Hint: a dozen of them weigh one ounce.)
No, this is not a freshman algebra question. It is serious one with implications that threaten the future of many shooting ranges around the country.
Until fairly recent years, most shooters wore no hearing protection. As result, most shooters over 40 have some hearing loss. For many, it is a very significant and noticeable hearing loss. Most of us didn’t know how much damage we were incrementally inflicting on ourselves. There was little or no warning about the danger to our health years ago.
The same is true with the lead problem. We fired round after round, match after match, without realizing what lead could do to us. The average shooter is seldom affected. The people at the highest risk are those with the greatest and most consistent exposure to the ambient leadâ€”range officers, coaches, and those attempting to remove lead from a range without proper safety gear and equipment.
Years ago, club members or employees of the company, community, school, police or military agency which owned the range were used to clean it up and remove lead and dust periodically. Nowadays we know how dangerous that can be and, as a result, ranges go uncleaned or, worst still, are closed and abandoned.
Range Closures. Excessive lead deposits have caused the closure of many ranges across the country, including school, police and military facilities. It hasn’t mattered whether the ranges were indoors or out. It hasn’t mattered whether they were isolated from non-users or not. Ranges of all types have been shut-down completely, including the Lordship outdoor range in Connecticut, the outdoor National Guard range on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and, several school ranges and ranges adjacent to schools all across the county. The Buffalo Police Department range has been closed several times.
In the Buffalo PD range case, some of the closures had to do with elevated lead levels in the blood of range officers. The bad news is that the lead problem is more lasting, if the lead is left in the environment, or if any diagnosed condition goes untreated. The good news is that, if caught early enough, heavy concentrations of lead in the blood will clear from the body with time, even without medication in many cases, if exposure to further lead is eliminated.
Even better news is the fact that now there is a safe way to remove the lead from a range and keeping it from building up again.
A relatively young company in the Buffalo-area which was already in the recycling business for the transportation, freight and automotive industries, has developed the equipment and technology necessary to clean up ranges safely, quickly and at reasonable cost.
Advanced Recycling Technology Inc. (ART) recently created new machinery specifically for range clean-ups at the request of a school district which had a high school range suffering from the worst kind of lead problem: the entire floor of the 50-foot, eight-point indoor range was covered in sand.
Working with a general contractor engaged in an overall renovation of various parts of the school and an environmental consultant and test lab, ART cleaned the entire firing range, the impact area, the area around the firing points, the related duct work and exhaust system, and surrounding contaminated school areas in five working days.
Lead dust swipes were taken at several points in all affected areas prior to the clean-up by ART. Initial evaluation of air monitoring tests showed lead contamination in the range area as high as 666.7 parts per million (PPM) cubic centimeters of air, and 90.8 PPM in the target area. EPA standards recommend corrective action at the 15 PPM level, and OSHA requires action at the 30 PPM level. Obviously, the school had a significant problem.
ART teams, in special clean suits with special breathing apparatus, brought in job-specific new machinery and processed all of the sand from the range and backstop area through their newly designed machinery, vacuumed all of the ductwork and surrounding areas, and any areas where ambient lead-contaminated dust had settled. The areas addressed by ART technicians included all those which could be reached without removing walls and structural supports.
During the course of the clean-up on the school’s range facility, ART removed approximately 5,400 pounds of lead shot, 1,500 pounds of brass and significant quantities of live rounds. The lead was removed in 30-gallon drums, sealed and forwarded to a recycling company under a bill of lading. All of the water used at the site during the clean-up was filtered through a series of filtration systems and checked for acceptable contaminant levels before being discharged in a sanitary/storm sewage system.
After removal of the lead contamination, ART workers raked and wetted the sand which was then covered by the general contractor with two inches of concrete to encapsulate any additional remaining lead. The wall surfaces were coated with a lead encapsulant after being cleaned in order to “lock-down” any errant dust particles.
Swipe tests conducted by independent laboratories after the ART clean-up was completed showed that remaining levels of lead particulates were less than 5 PPM in every test area of the school.
The ART contract enabled the school to remediate the problem at the range at a fifth of the cost of other, more time-consuming alternatives proposed under EPA, OSHA and HUD standards. When completed, the school’s shooting range met HUD standards and objectives for residential occupancy.
Competition Resumes. The school’s range was back in action for the fall 1997 regional scholastic rifle competition because of a pilot project that offers a fast, safe and practical approach for the reclamation and survival of many other shooting ranges with similar problem. Advanced Recycling Technology has patented the machinery they developed for the project in the suburban high school and has since submitted bids on several similar projects for other schools, police departments and the military.
“Having an awareness of and experience with a number of federal, state and local governmental standards for recycling other hazardous contaminants helped us design the equipment needed for this particular shooting range clean-up,” Peter Kremer, vice president for operations at ART told Gun Week. “Now we see this becoming a whole specialized division of our business.”
Anyone wishing more specific technical details of the school range recycling project or other range contaminant programs may contact Kremer at Advanced Recycling Technology Inc., PO Box 362, Dept GWK, Lancaster, NY 14086. The company’s toll-free number is 1-800-278-2257.
By the way, the answer to the question posed at the start of this report is 192,000 .22 rimfire bullets of 40 grainsâ€”enough for 6,400 individual 30-shot courses of fire, or 320 matches involving 20 shooters each.