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Shooting range putting lead into wells

Beatrice Police Officer Anthony Chisano fires during a SWAT Team training event in April 2013. Lead shot into an earthen backstop at the range is believed to be contaminating water wells northwest of Beatrice.

Law enforcement and SWAT members regularly practice their firearm skills at the city’s private training range northwest of Beatrice, but the bullets fired into a bank of ground behind the targets may be causing lead to leak into the groundwater.

Water superintendent Steve Kelley mentioned during Tuesday’s Board of Public Works meeting that Olsson Associates engineers are currently evaluating the situation.

Kelley said he grew concerned when a well was drilled near the range.

“It was about 700-800 feet from that shooting range and I was concerned about lead possibly getting in that drinking water,” Kelly said. “I drilled a monitoring well right close to where the shooting range was. We had two hits on that for lead showing traces."

Kelly said Olsson and Associates has been retained to evaluate the situation and explore possible remedies.

“Right now it’s very small amounts, but over time it could get higher," Kelly said. "They’re doing an evaluation of how we’re going to handle that.”

As the evaluation of lead levels continues, City Administrator and BPW manager Tobias Tempelmeyer said the trace amounts of lead aren’t cause for immediate concern.

“Since we had a high reading, we thought we would check it out, see if it’s anything we need to be concerned about and what steps are need to remedy it,” he said. “(Olsson Associates) have looked at it to see if it’s a problem and is there anything we can do to fix it. That’s what they’re looking at right now."

Tempelmeyer said Olsson and Associates have not "raised a red flag" on the situation as of yet.

“At this point there is no risk," Tempelmeyer said. "It’s something we want to monitor and make sure is not a problem in the future.”

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Tempelmeyer said water from the affected area does not intersect with the water that filters to Beatrice and is used by residents, and water from multiple wells is mixed together before reaching city taps.

If any water from the area would make it’s way to the city, Tempelmeyer said it would be diluted.

The results from the monitoring well showed 3.64 micrograms per liter, or parts per billion, which he said is below the maximum contamination level of 15 micrograms per liter.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Website, the Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to set health goals based solely on possible health risks called maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG). The MCLG for lead is zero.

Because lead contamination of drinking water often results from corrosion of plumbing materials belonging to water system customers, the EPA established a treatment technique for lead.

If more than 10 percent of tap water samples exceed the lead action level of 15 parts per billion, then water systems are required to take actions.

Beatrice Police Capt. Gerald Lamkin said the training range dates back to at least 1978 and during six to eight months out of the years, is used once or twice a month.

Behind the staged targets sits a large bank of ground that serves as a backstop to catch the bullets.

Tempelmeyer said if lead contamination is an issue for the area, the dirt may be removed.

“One of the proposals is removing the backstop, haul all that dirt out and bring in new dirt,” he said. “It’s something we need to check out, but nothing we need to panic about at this point.”

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Reach Scott Koperski at scott.koperski@beatricedailysun.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKoperski.

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