Range misses mark with environment

The closure of the decades-old firing range at Coyote Point in five years will leave many tons of lead bullets in an adjacent hillside, an environmental hazard that will require a large-scale cleanup, environmental groups and county officials said.

San Mateo County supervisors would like to see the range closed in the next five years, said Samuel Hertzberg, senior planner with the county’s Parks Department, because they said the park is an inappropriate area for a firing range.

For the last 45 years, bullets that have missed their mark at the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office firing range, used by several Peninsula law enforcement agencies as well as members of the public, have bored into the dirt hill behind the range. Lead is a highly toxic metal that causes a range of health effects, from learning disabilities to death, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

And there’s no shortage of lead around the targets at Coyote Point, said Sgt. Tim Reed, who has run the facility for the last three years.

“That dirt hill is more of a dirt and lead hill now,” he said.

But environmental groups and county health officials debate whether the lead contamination in the hillside is a cause for concern.

Dean Peterson, director of Environmental Health for the county, said until a cleanup occurs, there should be no cause for worry.

“Lead does not move very well in the environment,” he said. “It’s not going to be leached into the water table.”

According to federal law, firing ranges are allowed to pump in as many lead bullets into the surrounding area as long as it’s operational. If the range does shut down, the dirt will be considered hazardous material, and a major environmental analysis and mitigation will be necessary. That process that will be overseen by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Peterson said.

Richard Wiles, executive director of Environmental Working Group of Washington, D.C., said firing ranges are one of the biggest lead pollutants in the country, putting nearly 9 million pounds of lead into the environment each year.

“You have the potential for water contamination, lead runoff, soil contamination, lead-contaminated dust blowing around,” he said.

Sejan Choksi of Bay Area environmental watchdog group Baykeeper said firing ranges are not covered under the federal Clean Water Act and are therefore difficult to litigate against.

Nonetheless, she said, the community should be concerned, particularly because the firing range is only a few hundred yards away from the Bay.

Wiles said an environmental analysis would be appropriate.

“It’s never too soon to investigate the situation, given the amount of lead that’s there,” he said.

kworth@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Demonstrators commemorated the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside S.F. City Hall on June 1, 2020.<ins></ins>
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

San Francisco Unified School District Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, pictured with Superintendent Vincent Matthews on the first day back to classrooms, will be board vice president for the remander of the 2121 term. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

An instructor at Sava Pool teaches children drowning prevention techniques. (Jordi Molina/ Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Indoor city pools reopen for lap swimming and safety classes

Two of San Francisco’s indoor city pools reopened Tuesday, marking another step… Continue reading

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Most Read