Discovery Bay shot with lead? Resident's complaint lures EPA to site of shooting range
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Gardiner resident Margaret Bailey stands on the beach overlooking Discovery Bay on Diamond Point wearing the nurse's uniform she has modified to read "Is Discovery Bay Toxic and Poisoned?" -- an outfit she wore at a recent Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting. -- Photo by Evan Cael/Peninsula Daily News

By Evan Cael, Peninsula Daily News

DISCOVERY BAY - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials want to see if Security Services Northwest's Gardiner facility is polluting the area.

The EPA plans the site assessment as a result of a request from the state Department of Ecology, which received a complaint on Sept. 10 from Gardiner resident Margaret Bailey, a nurse.

Bailey suggested that lead poisoning could be originating from the shooting range on the property, making its way to Discovery Bay waters and threatening shellfish that people consume.

"I'm trying to take this in a new direction, away from noise and ask, 'Are people being poisoned?'" Bailey said.

"These are just wild accusations," said Joe D'Amico, SSNW president, who added that he will cooperate with the federal agency.

Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of a proposal to rezone 40 acres in the hills of Gardiner west of U.S. Highway 101 to allow SSNW to relocate its shooting range are gearing up for tonight's public hearing on that proposal, as well as others.

The Jefferson County Planning Commission will host a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Chimacum High School, 91 West Valley Road, to take public comments on proposed comprehensive plan amendments.

Bailey has been circulating a petition opposing a proposed comprehensive plan amendment that D'Amico has submitted to rezone about 40 acres in Gardiner from rural resident to commercial forest.

This would allow him to relocate the shooting range two miles up the hill.

The move is an attempt to mitigate the noise neighbors hear from the gunfire.

Baily said she has between 150 and 200 signatures of those who oppose the proposal and will turn them in at tonight's Jefferson County Planning Commission meeting.

Asking for access
The Seattle office of the EPA recently sent a letter to D'Amico requesting permission to access the Gunstone property he leases near Discovery Bay.

"We just look to see if there are hazardous materials on the site and if they could be seeping into the ground water," said Joanne LaBaw, EPA site assessment manager.

She said that, during the preliminary assessment, EPA representatives, with permission, would walk the site and take photographs.

During this process, samples would not be taken of dirt or other materials, LaBaw said.

A report following the site inspection would then recommend more investigation or determine that there is insufficient hazard to warrant more investigation.

The site visit will take place, "hopefully within the calendar year," LaBaw said.

D'Amico said he has forwarded the request to access the site to his legal team for advice, admitting he is slightly leery.

"It seems like every time we've opened the door and let people come out here, they've turned and used the information against us," D'Amico said, adding, "We'll cooperate as much as possible."

When D'Amico admitted Jefferson County Department of Community Development staff on the site in 2005, they noted three buildings that he built without permits.

He was issued a stop-work order soon after, which led to a legal battle with Jefferson County - throwing into question SSNW's grandfathered status and number of employees he can have - which is still tied up in court on appeals.

Previous opposition
Previously, opposition has focused on the noise emitted from gunfire coming from the business.

In 2005, Jefferson County Environmental Health personnel, directed by Ecology who received a complaint at that time, attempted to gain access to the site but was refused permission by D'Amico.

D'Amico said he didn't allow Environmental Health on the site, called Fort Discovery, because he was not obligated to.

The denial put Fort Discovery on Ecology's "confirmed and suspected contaminated site list," said Kim Schmanke, Ecology spokeswoman.

She said when and if EPA gains access to Fort Discovery, Ecology representatives will want to come along.

Being on the list doesn't mean the site is contaminated, Schmanke said. It simply that the agency doesn't know because it was denied access.

"We see no reason to test," D'Amico said.

"There are no problems."

He added, "We're worried about the environment, too. We're concerned about it. We live here."

D'Amico lives at Fort Discovery with his wife and four children.

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Reporter Evan Cael can be reached at 360-385-2335 or evan.cael@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 18. 2007 9:00PM
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