Oregon environmental officials have fined a Phoenix shot manufacturer $24,780 for contaminating soil with lead waste that posed a potential hazard to surrounding properties.
"The levels of lead were extremely high," at Northwest Shot Manufacturing, Inc., said Brian White, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. "They were disposing of it directly into the ground."
Northwest Shot Manufacturing recycles lead shot and produces new shot in a rural area near Phoenix on Camp Baker Road.
During a DEQ inspection last November, officials found 119,900 pounds of waste lead pellets, waste lead pellets mixed with sand or soil, waste lead ash and other debris stored in 218 55-gallon containers.
The company collects expended lead pellets from shooting ranges in Southern Oregon and Northern California and stores them in 55-gallon drums. The lead is separated from the soil and melted into ingots for processing into lead shot.
Byproducts from the manufacturing process include dross and dust containing lead, which state health officials say contaminated the soil.
A DEQ analysis found lead levels of 1,250 milligrams for every liter of soil in an area where spent waste lead is discharged. A site is considered hazardous if it has 5 milligrams of lead per liter of soil.
Another area that health officials determined was a wastewater spill contained 295 milligrams of lead per liter of soil. An area next to an outdoor crucible for melting lead had 881 milligrams of lead per liter of soil, according to a DEQ test.
Larry Stockman, owner of Northwest Shot, said he didn't want to discuss the DEQ penalty, although he said he has filed an appeal.
"Anybody can point a finger at you and accuse you of anything, but you've got to back it up," Stockman said.
He disputed the DEQ analysis that found contaminated soil on his property.
"I kind of doubt it," he said.
Northwest Shot is well known locally as a source for lead pellets used in shotgun shells. DEQ is requiring Stockman's company to take immediate action to comply with Oregon law and contain all hazardous lead waste in sealed containers. All contaminated soil has to be removed to a permitted hazardous waste disposal site.
Northwest Shot doesn't have a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identification number, which is being required by the DEQ.
White, the DEQ spokesman, said Northwest Shot has been referred to the cleanup division, which will monitor the progress of the cleanup. He said lead toxins don't break down readily in the soil. They can spread and have the potential to contaminate wells.
The bulk of the penalty ($19,042) was for disposing of hazardous waste (lead wastes) at a site other than a permitted hazardous waste site. In its investigation, DEQ determined that Northwest Shot had been improperly disposing of the waste at its site as far back as January 1994. The remainder of the penalty amount ($5,738) was for failing to determine whether the lead wastes produced on site were hazardous.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.