Multiple tests show lead levels above state hazard levels in surface soil and on surfaces near the range. Ryan Lillis The Sacramento Bee
Multiple tests show lead levels above state hazard levels in surface soil and on surfaces near the range. Ryan Lillis The Sacramento Bee

The Public Eye

Hazardous lead levels found in Mangan Park outside shuttered Sacramento gun range

By Ryan Lillis

rlillis@sacbee.com

April 15, 2016 05:03 PM

UPDATED April 15, 2016 11:21 PM

Hazardous levels of lead were found in 11 soil and surface tests in south Sacramento’s Mangan Park outside a shuttered city-owned gun range, Sacramento officials said Friday.

Lead levels above state environmental or health standards were discovered on a walkway leading into the range, on the roof, in the soil 5 feet from an exterior wall and in other soil locations immediately surrounding the building. A soil test 2 feet from the range near a “bullet trap access hatch” discovered lead at a concentration that is 762.5 times the state Department of Toxic Substances Control standard.

Tests found that a nearby playground, picnic area, archery range and public pool deck did not have hazardous lead levels. In those samplings, lead was either absent or well below hazardous standards.

The city has scheduled a community meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Centennial Church on Freeport Boulevard to discuss the findings. Residents of the Mangan Park neighborhood, tucked between Sacramento Executive Airport and Fruitridge Road, will be notified of the findings in letters expected to arrive at homes on Monday.

Never miss a local story.

Sign up today for a free 30 day free trial of unlimited digital access.

Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents Mangan Park, said Friday at a City Hall news conference that the range “should be cleaned as quickly as possible.”

“We’re doing everything possible to ensure the safety of the people in the community,” he said. “I’m fine if we take the building down.”

The city ordered the tests following a Sacramento Bee investigation that found city records of more than 20 samples taken between 2006 and 2014 showing lead dust inside the range at concentrations exceeding the state’s Department of Public Health hazard threshold.

A gun range consultant hired by the city wrote in a March 2012 report that the range’s ventilation system appeared to be sending unfiltered air outside from the contaminated indoor range. However, it wasn’t until July 2014 that the city tested areas immediately outside the range, according to records obtained by The Bee through the Public Records Act.

Those samples found lead dust on two roof vents at levels far above the state hazard threshold. Entek Consulting Group, an environmental hygiene firm hired by the city, conducted more tests in November 2014 that discovered high levels of lead dust throughout the inside of the range and in three different locations on the roof, a report by the firm showed.

Lead contamination is a common risk in indoor firing ranges, a byproduct of the toxic vapor and dust generated by the firing of ammunition.

Though City Manager John Shirey ordered the gun range closed on Christmas Eve 2014, the city did not tell park users or residents about the contamination and did not order tests of the soil near the range until April 1 – after The Bee questioned parks officials. The range remained untouched until Friday, when two workers installed a chain-link fence perimeter around the facility, nearly 480 days after it was closed.

“It’s very questionable why it has taken 480 days to get this far, and I hope that the toxic park cleanup is both prompt and thorough,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

Schenirer said he wants to wait until the city has a plan to address the contamination before exploring whether there “was a breakdown in our system.”

“We will deal with the issues surrounding accountability,” he said.

Peter Green, a civil and environmental engineering researcher at UC Davis whose specialties include lead and mercury contamination in urban areas, said the test results were “a mixture of good news and bad news.”

He said the lead found near the archery range and in the picnic area are likely at “naturally occurring levels.” At this point, Green said the city should conduct a “careful cleanup” of the range building.

“The lead is not going to rinse away in the rain, it’s not going to degrade into something harmless,” said Green, who reviewed the city’s previous tests and other documents provided to him by The Bee. “Once you clean it, you’re done forever. It’s a permanent solution instead of waiting until there are permanent effects on people.”

Sacramento County’s Environmental Management Division, or EMD, has taken primary responsibility for evaluating whether the city should clean the range and conduct further testing at the site. The department is working with an investigator and a scientist from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control.

EMD spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno said her department will review the soil test results released Friday and previous test records before recommending a plan of action. She said the department needs “to verify that the way the sampling (for Friday’s results) was done satisfies our investigation needs.”

The department may also recommend that frequent park users and Mangan Park residents get their blood tested for lead, an EMD official said at the City Hall news conference. The city is expecting recommendations from EMD as early as next week.

Kathy Ely, who has lived near Mangan Park for more than 20 years, said the city is “moving in the right direction” by addressing the issue and discussing a cleanup plan.

“It’s something they should have done a long time ago,” she said. “Unfortunately, they waited, but at least they’re moving forward.”

While Ely said she was relieved the lead levels were low or nonexistent in the play areas of the park, she said she has concerns for what the city discovered inside and immediately surrounding the range.

“I feel bad for the people that used that gun range or walked by it all the time and tracked lead in their houses on their shoes,” she said. “They’re the ones that are really impacted.”

A former gun range user, Ian Willis, is suing the city of Sacramento and two gun clubs that used to operate the range, alleging he and his family suffer from lead poisoning as a result of the time they spent at the facility.

Entek Consulting’s tests in November 2014 discovered lead in 39 spots inside and outside the range. The readings in all but one of those tests was above state hazard levels, according to the firm’s report.

 
 

Christopher Conlin, the city’s parks director, said Friday the new tests placed “a lot of focus on play areas.” He said the fence was placed around the range to ensure no one will have access to “hot spot” areas where high levels of lead were found.

Entek was hired again this month by the city to test seven surfaces and the soil 1 inch beneath the surface at 11 locations near the range. The highest surface concentrations were found on the north side of the roof, on a handle on the door to the range’s main entrance and along the concrete walkway leading to the main entrance, according to its report. Those levels ranged from 1,500 micrograms per square foot on the walkway to 2,300 micrograms per square foot on the roof, far above the exterior hazard threshold of 400 micrograms per square foot, according to Entek’s report.

Of the 11 surface soil tests conducted by Entek, elevated lead levels were found in eight locations. The most striking sampling found lead in the surface soil 2 feet from the range exterior wall, near the bullet trap hatch, at a reading of 61,000 milligrams per kilogram; the state Department of Toxic Substances Control alert level is 80 milligrams per kilogram for soil. Most of the readings were at levels that could lead to health risks with long-term exposure, according to the department.

More than a dozen other tests of deeper soil found lead below hazard levels. A test of the water in the public pool is still being examined.

Ryan Lillis: 916-321-1085, @Ryan_Lillis