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Ashland Gun Club insurer: We won't pay for lead issue

An insurance group that covers the Ashland Gun Club and city of Ashland says it has no responsibility to pay any damages related to lead contamination from ammunition.

In a case filed in April in U.S. District Court in Medford, underwriters for the Britain-based insurance group Lloyd's of London said the liability insurance it provides covers bodily injury and property damage.

Lloyd's said the insurance does not cover claims related to lead contamination or pollution, according to court documents.

Lloyd's filed the documents after three neighbors of the Ashland Gun Club sued the club, its individual board members and the city in December 2011.

In that lawsuit, neighbors Cathy DeForest, her husband, Leon Pyle, and Dr. Edward Kerwin said the club — which is on city-owned land — is discharging pollutants, creating a noise nuisance and contaminating land, soil and water.

Bullets also strike Kerwin's land, according to the lawsuit.

The neighbors are asking a judge to block activities at the gun club that violate environmental laws, to require the defendants to pay for soil and water sampling arranged by the plaintiffs, and to pay for any needed environmental restoration.

The neighbors want the defendants to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines for every day they allegedly violated the Clean Water Act — dating back for decades.

They also want payments for attorneys' fees, costs, mental anguish and other damages.

Ashland Gun Club President Mike Lanier said he has no comment on the Lloyd's of London case.

Lanier, who has been acting as the club's spokesman, was not named as a defendant in the neighbors' lawsuit.

City Attorney David Lohman said Ashland and the gun club have coverage from Lloyd's related to the club, but the city also has its own separate insurance.

That company has filed paperwork to reserve its right to argue later that it is only responsible for covering some claims related to the gun club, Lohman said.

The neighbors' lawsuit and the Lloyd's case still are winding their way through the court system.

Lohman said any decision on the insurance case likely would come after resolution of the neighbors' lawsuit.

Earlier this year, environmental testing revealed lead from shotgun pellets had contaminated the rural land of neighbor James Miller.

Miller is not suing the gun club nor the city.

The Ashland City Council was scheduled on Tuesday night to decide whether to pay $65,000 to Miller and give him 3.8 acres of city-owned rural land in exchange for his 12 contaminated acres.

The item was pulled from the council's agenda because the city had not obtained a certified appraisal of Miller's land as required by state law.

The city had obtained a less formal appraisal.

Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.