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Outdoors Soil tested for lead at Dillsboro firing range

Brian Bauer (left) and Levi Bible (kneeling, right) of Mountain Environmental Group gather soil samples at Southwestern Community College’s firing range on June 10 in Dillsboro. Observing are, from left: Daniel Manring, SCC’s coordinator of administrative and facility projects; Matthew Reynolds, NC law enforcement certification program coordinator at SCC; Curtis Dowdle, SCC’s dean of public safety training; and Robin Proctor, western area environmental chemist with the NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources.Southwestern Community College officials are taking measures to remove lead and to prevent the potential for new contamination upon receiving results of recent water and soil testing at the college’s firing range in Dillsboro.

Though no lead concentrations were detected in surface water samples taken uphill and downhill of the firing range, the results received this week show an elevated level of lead concentration in soil roughly 15-20 feet downhill of the shotgun range.

The steps SCC is taking now include more testing farther downhill of the first samples and the installation of erosion control fabric. These were recommended Tuesday by Robin Proctor, western area environmental chemist with the NC Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR).

At Proctor’s recommendation, SCC installed sediment basins several weeks ago to contain the sediment within the boundary of the firing range.

Asked if firing range operators typically test for lead and take precautionary measures at an active site, Proctor said: “No, most don’t. The only time they ever do is if a complaint has been filed or a problem surfaces. SCC has definitely been proactive.”

Results showed that samples collected downhill of the range contained lead at a concentration of 19,700 mg/kg (at a depth of 0- 6 inches from the surface) and 5,320 mg/kg (at a depth of 2-3 feet below the surface), exceeding the Protection of Groundwater Preliminary Soil Remediation Goal of 270 mg/kg established by the North Carolina Inactive Hazardous Sites Branch.

The tests were conducted by Canton-based Mountain Environmental Group. Proctor reviewed those results Tuesday and offered suggestions to SCC the same day.

“I would have been shocked if the tests hadn’t shown any lead just considering the amount of time that firing range has been in operation (since the early 1980s) and the amount of lead that’s been fired,” said Proctor. “I’m pleased that it hasn’t been leaching into the water, but it is a high level of lead. I’m not hugely concerned, but we do want more testing to make sure no more sediment is running farther downhill.”

SCC officials were also present when the samples were taken on June 10.

“We want to be good stewards of this facility that Jackson County graciously allows us to use for the training of law enforcement professionals throughout the region,” said Curtis Dowdle, dean of public safety training at SCC. “We greatly appreciate Robin and everyone at DENR for providing guidance so we can make sure we are taking every appropriate measure.”

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