The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is not requiring the city of Ashland to clean up lead at the Ashland Gun Club — as long as the site remains a gun club.
The city of Ashland is going ahead with plans to voluntarily consult with DEQ about what would have to be done to clean the area. In use by the Ashland Gun Club since 1968, the 66-acre site contains lead from ammunition.
"In the event that we were to change the use in the future, we want to know what the clean-up would be," Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught said.
The DEQ consultation will cost the city of Ashland an estimated $5,000, he said.
DEQ will detail what clean-up work would be required. The state agency will either develop a cost estimate, or the city of Ashland can take the description of the work involved to a contractor for an estimate, city of Ashland Maintenance Safety Supervisor Mike Morrison said.
Gun club clean-ups at other locations have ranged in cost from thousands to millions of dollars.
The city of Ashland doesn't have to do any of the clean-up unless the Gun Club site, located east of town near the Ashland Municipal Airport, changes use, according to DEQ officials.
Some residents have proposed different ideas for the land, such as using it for a park.
A previous study by a consultant found that lead concentrations did not pose a risk to groundwater, plants or animals. However, the consultant recommended more groundwater testing.
Morrison said groundwater in the area is tested twice a year because it supplies lithia water to a historic fountain on the downtown plaza.
The water contains traces of lithium. Early Ashland residents once dreamed of turning the town into a mineral springs resort using lithia water, which was believed to have healing properties.
Crumbling concrete structures that are reminders of that failed scheme still stand on the Gun Club site. Members of the club have erected fences around sites to protect them from the arrows of archers who practice near the structures.
The Gun Club is testing berm areas to make sure soil pH levels don't contribute to lead migration.
Gun Club Vice President Bill Longiotti said the club also had a laboratory test pH levels from throughout the site and the results showed lead would not migrate.
The club sent two members to a week-long training camp to learn about federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for managing lead at outdoor shooting ranges, Faught said.
The club is also working on an entry gate that will have a computer log of visitors. Club members will need an identification card to enter, he said.
Ashland City Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he appreciated the efforts of Ashland Gun Club members.
"They're voluntarily moving forward on a lot of things," he said.
Some local residents, including neighbors of the Gun Club, continue to have concerns that range from noise pollution to possible lead contamination of the site.
Neighbor Cathy DeForest said the consultant hired by the city of Ashland in 2009 tested only one area for lead contamination of groundwater. She said a flood of Emigrant Creek, which travels through the Gun Club, could sweep lead into that creek and then into Bear Creek downstream.
She said the City Council should require a phase-out of lead ammunition.
Gun Club officials have said that lead helps ammunition fly correctly through the air, and it would be difficult to police the ammunition use of members.
Neighbor Edward Kerwin, who has an organic vineyard nearby, also voiced concerns about lead. He said the Ashland Gun Club may have been an appropriate use of the city-owned land decades ago when the town had only 5,000 residents, but it isn't now, when the population is at about 25,000 people. He said there are 87 residents living near the site.
"It doesn't belong near the city of Ashland," he said.
Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.