JOYCE — A small area — about 330 cubic yards of soil — at Salt Creek Recreation Area’s former shooting range was found to be contaminated with lead, according to field results taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Measurements must be confirmed by lab tests, said EPA investigator Kathy Parker.
During the three-day field study that ended Thursday, Parker and two hired contractors found that the “impact zone,” which would have been the hillside behind the shooting targets, have levels of lead that exceed the state cleanup level of 250 parts per million.
The highest reading was 38,780 parts per million.
“That’s a pretty high number,” said Parker, when comparing the reading to what is usually found at shooting ranges.
Lead can damage a person’s neurological system, but that usually requires direct ingestion (eating) of contaminated soil or dust.
But Parker said park users shouldn’t be too worried about coming into contact with contaminated soil.
“I think they need to just stay out of that area until we determine what needs to be done next,” she said.
The former shooting range, located in the woods of the southeast portion of the park near the Striped Peak trail head, was initially used by the Army when the land was Camp Hayden during World War II.
After the war, the Coast Guard used the range until about 1958.
A private gun club operated the range from then on through the 1960s.
Parker said 160 soil and water samples will be analyzed to confirm the field results, which were taken with a hand-held device known as an XRF gun.
The lab results are expected to be complete in September.
The state Department of Ecology placed the former shooting range on its list of contaminated sites in December.
That came after the Clallam County Health Department confirmed lead contamination after it took seven soil samples of the shooting range and surrounding area last fall.
The county Health Department conducted the soil sampling on behalf of Ecology.
Jennifer Garcelon of the Health Department said no lead was found in a playground a few hundred yards from the shooting range.
Both Ecology and EPA are studying the levels of lead contamination at Salt Creek after receiving complaints from a Clallam County resident.
Ecology investigator Cris Mathews said the Health Department and EPA studies will be used to determine what should be done.
“By doing so, we get a real complete look at this site and make an accurate calculation as to whether it presents a public health risk,” he said.
Actions could range from placing signs warning visitors of the risks of coming into contact with the soil to removing the soil itself.
Either way, Clallam County, which owns the recreation area, would be responsible for covering the costs.
The state Department of Natural Resources also could be responsible if the lead contamination extends into its nearby lands, Parker said.
“I’ll talk with the county and state about what we would probably want to do,” she said.
The removal of soil would be more likely if the lab results show that lead contamination is being carried by water away from the site.
“We’re trying to find out what the edge of contamination is,” Parker said.
The area of contamination extends about 150 feet up a hill in the impact zone and is 120 feet wide at the top and 80 feet wide at the bottom, Parker said, adding that it appeared to be confined to a small area.
“I guess they were pretty good shots,” she said.
Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at email@example.com.