By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The state is seeking public comment through June 3 on a cleanup plan and will incorporate some of the comments before finalizing the plan with Sunnydell's owners.
The proposal would clean lead from spent shotgun shells and chemical contaminants from clay pigeons from the grounds' soil, while instituting practices to stop contaminants from reaching neighbors' property.
Ecology said the neighbors' property has been contaminated in the past — though not in recent samples — and wants to ensure it doesn't happen in the future.
Matt Dryke, winner of a gold medal in shooting at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, co-owns the 40-acre grounds at 292 Dryke Road with his sister, Ellen.
A bust of him sits in Sequim's Carrie Blake Park.
The range has been the training grounds for Port Angeles shooter Jaiden Grinnell, a member of the USA Shooting team who has won several national and international competitions.
The Dryke siblings inherited the land, which abuts the western edge of Robin Hill Farm County Park, from their father, Chuck, who founded Sunnydell, which has been a gun range since the 1960s.
Although the siblings don't think the lead poses health problems for their neighbors, they said they are doing the work because their father, who died in February 2012, entered into an agreed order with Ecology in 2009 to clean up the property.
Clallam County Department of Health and Human Services and Ecology inspectors found elements of lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, chemicals in the pitch that binds clay pigeons, in neighbors' property while investigating the deaths of several trees in 2004, according to an Ecology report.
Soil and pond sediment was contaminated with lead and clay target chemicals, according to the report.
Guy Barrett, site manager with Ecology's Southwest Regional Office Toxics Cleanup Program, said lead has not been found in recent water samples.
“The lead found in pond water samples in the past was likely due to sediment floating in the water,” the report said.
Groundskeepers worry that the cleanup, which facility manager Tom Kirkman said has cost more than $100,000 thus far, will jeopardize the shooting range's future, limiting opportunities for its more than
30 regular weekend shooters.
“Sequim means 'a place to shoot,'” Kirkman, a Poulsbo native and lifelong Sunnydell shooter, said in reference to the meaning of the Klallam word “Sequim,” which has been defined as “hunting ground” by Timothy Montler of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe.
“We've shot hundreds of thousands of shells into that dirt,” Kirkman said.
“And we're fine.”
Excavators now are scraping the top levels of soil in four of the range's shooting areas to harvest lead for recycling. Funds will go toward cleanup costs.
The lead harvest is not required by Ecology now, Barrett said, but the cleanup plan under consideration will require that it be repeated regularly to remove shot from the property.
Soil is filtered at a mining operation set up on the east side of Sunnydell, where lead pellets are removed from the dirt using a series of conveyor belts and rotating drums.
Water is pumped from a pond to the south of the mining setup to clean dirt off the lead remnants.
It is then sold to ammunition factories, which recycle it into new shotgun pellets, Kirkman said.
Cascade Reclaim Mining of Olympia was contracted to do the work.
Kirkman estimated the range has spent more than $100,000 in testing, mining and earthwork.
Under the order, Ecology will inspect the range for compliance every five years.
Toward the northern edge of the property, the direction in which water drains off the shooting grounds, Kirkman said, owners will extend a berm to collect shotgun pellets by about 10 yards and raise it from 15 feet high to 30 feet high.
The berm also will retain stormwater to keep it from running onto neighbors' properties.
Kirkman said the range long ago switched to a non-toxic clay pigeon to stop PAH contamination.
The plan also bars shooting around a pond at the northern border of the range to further ensure no shot ends up in neighbors' property.
Lead is a neurotoxin that can cause a variety of health problems in people and animals, Ecology said, adding that it is especially harmful for children younger than 6.
PAHs have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and weakened immune systems, Ecology said.
The Sunnydell cleanup plan can be reviewed at the Sequim Library, 630 N. Sequim Ave.; the Ecology Southwest Regional Office, 300 Desmond Drive S.E., Lacey; or online at http://tinyurl.com/bmtfqea.
Comments should be submitted to site manager Barrett, Southwest Regional Office Toxics Cleanup Program, P.O. Box 47775, Olympia, WA 98504-7775; or by email to Guy.Barrett@ecy.wa.gov.
For more information, phone Barrett at 360-407-7115.
For more information about the Sunnydell Shooting Grounds, visit www.sunnydellshootinggrounds.com.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.