Lead contamination linked to gun club

Sebastopol Gun Club was shut down in March after 63 years of shooting at Marty Busch Reserve, following revelations of lead contamination in public areas at the reserve. 

An EPA investigation in October 2016 found dangerous levels of lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs), a chemical found in clay targets, on parts of the Yarrowee bike path and public access areas neighbouring the range.

Spent lead shot and broken clay birds the cause of contamination at the reserve

Club president Russell Hardy said the council are not interested in letting the club continue shooting at the reserve, even if a solution to the contamination is found.

“The council have used the EPA to close us because they don’t want us here because of the residential houses, you’ve got kids playing footy here and people walking around with guns, it’s not a good look, he said.

“We understand that the soil is contaminated, we understand that it’s got to be fixed, so if we’re not viable to shoot here any longer then that’s ok, but surely the council can help us find somewhere else and that’s really all we’re after.”

In a written statement, Director of Infrastructure and Environment Terry Demeo said the council is investigating potential target shooting sites that wouldn’t pose a risk to residents. 

The neighbouring football oval

The closure of the club comes less than a year after spending the $35 thousand 2015 State Government grant to upgrade the facilities.

Remediation of the site is estimated to cost over $100 thousand, far more than the $10 thousand the club has in the bank. 

The layout of the range, shooting off a steep ridge, prohibited the effective removal of lead shot and discarded clay birds.

“Most gun clubs are in landfill sites or quarries, they’re in land that’s not useable, so to reclaim the lead and residue off the clay birds is very difficult for some clubs, particularly this one,” Mr Hardy said.

The escarpment leading down to the Yarrowee bike path

Field and Game development manager Daryl Snowdon is part of the Shooters Reference Group working with the EPA, he said once lead leaches into soil and groundwater it’s difficult to clean up.

“Once you do get that lead oxide into the soil it’s an issue, an expensive issue, you’ve got to remove the soil essentially,” he said. 

The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party successfully lobbied the state government for funding, who last month committed $3 million to the project, which will assist the EPA and regional clubs with clean-up costs.

“We need for the EPA to realise that these are gun clubs, not kindergartens, so imposing on them a clean-up order that would have had the dirt so good you can eat off is just simply inappropriate,” he said.

Safety signs inside the old clubhouse

The club is required to report to the EPA by 15 December with an assessment of the extent of contamination at the reserve.

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