S.F. gun club, city water agency must clean up pollution, state agency orders

The Pacific Rod and Gun Club at Lake Merced has until 2016 to clean up pollutants, according to an order by the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The order, which is scheduled to be discussed today by the state agency, would require the gun club and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the owner of the property, to clean the soil around the lake by Jan. 1, 2016. The order also states that a plan of how the cleanup will be done must be submitted by October.

The order is another piece in a long battle between the two entities over who is responsible for cleaning up the lead pellets that were used by the Pacific Rod and Gun Club prior to the 1990s.

Clay targets were also used by gun club members until they were replaced more than 10 years ago by biodegradable alternatives.

“We want to move things forward and get the work done,” said Steve Ritchie, the SFPUC's assistant general manager for water. “This provides the framework.”

An ecological risk assessment must also be conducted by the utilities commission to determine if there is harm to the wildlife in the area.

The cost for the cleanup — estimated to be close to $12.5 million — could fall to ratepayers, unless gun club insurance policies can be claimed, Ritchie said.

“They've indicated they have no assets,” he said. “It will fall to The City if we can't get access to their insurance.”

Last year, the club was evicted by the SFPUC, but a settlement agreement was reached that allows the club to stay on the property until 2014.

Fred Tautenhahn, spokesman for the gun club, said much of the deal is still being worked out.

“Conversations have been ongoing for some time and things have not been resolved,” he said. “That's all I know or can comment on because this thing has been ongoing for years.”

But in the comments submitted to the water board, the gun club's attorney James Arnold said much of the cleanup area is state property. Additionally, another letter says that the SFPUC's claim that there was target fragments found throughout the site is false.

“No other asphaltic materials have been observed on site,” the letter stated. “These are serious misstatements and mischaracterize the facts that exist in the Board's record.”

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