Residents of Sacramento’s Mangan Park neighborhood grilled city officials Wednesday about their response to lead contamination at a closed indoor gun range in a neighborhood park.
More than 50 people attended a meeting at Centennial United Methodist Church a half-mile from the shuttered James G. Mangan Rifle and Pistol Range, criticizing city leaders for not notifying the public about hazardous levels of lead discovered inside and outside the facility, and for waiting more than 15 months to fence off the range.
“This is a community in crisis,” said Jonelle Chaves, a neighborhood resident.
The community meeting was called after tests conducted outside the range this month discovered hazardous levels of lead dust on the building’s front walkway, roof and main entrance door. Lead concentrations above the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control environmental standard were also found in eight surface soil samples taken within five feet of the range, including one reading near a bullet trap hatch that was several hundred times above the standard.
More than a dozen other tests found that a nearby playground, picnic area, pool and archery range were not contaminated by hazardous levels of lead. The city has not tested residential backyards.
The tests were taken after a Sacramento Bee investigation revealed the city closed the gun range in December 2014 following years of tests inside the building that showed lead levels exceeding state Department of Public Health hazard thresholds. Two separate tests that year also showed hazardous levels of lead dust on the range roof.
City Manager John Shirey ordered the range closed on Dec. 24, 2014. But users of Mangan Park and residents of the surrounding neighborhood were never notified of the lead contamination. The city also waited to begin testing the nearby soil until April 1 and did not place a barrier around the closed range until last week, nearly 480 days after the doors were locked.
Several neighborhood residents said Wednesday they were upset the city never told them about the lead. Some said they were planning to have their blood and backyard soil tested.
Tony Lozoya, who lived directly across the street from the range for 20 years until moving in January, said he spent hours in his backyard barbecuing, gardening and watching his children play on a play structure. He said he plans to speak to his doctor about having his son Tony, 10, and daughter Katie, 8, tested for lead poisoning.
“I’m very scared,” he told city officials. “It seems unfair. (The city) could have let us know. If I had known, maybe I could have taken precautions.”
“You’re right,” responded Councilman Jay Schenirer, who represents the neighborhood. “You have every right to be upset.”
County health officials told the audience they had no records of a child from Mangan Park developing lead poisoning since the 1960s.
Schenirer said repeatedly that the city should have done more to tell neighbors and park users about the lead, adding that test records at the range were never communicated with top city leaders. He said he wants the range cleaned and has expressed a desire for the building to be torn down. City parks officials have said they want to develop a master plan for the park and gun range building over the next year before deciding whether to raze the range.
Schenirer said that the city expects to receive a letter from the county’s Environmental Management Division on Friday laying out the city’s required response to the lead contamination.
Marie Woodin, the chief of environmental compliance at the EMD, said the letter will include requirements that the city test the public sidewalks directly in front of the range and across 34th Avenue from the building for lead; that the city conduct another round of tests in the soil directly surrounding the range; that the range building be capped or sealed to ensure that the lead dust on the roof and door does not move; and that the city develop a plan for cleaning the lead inside the range.
After receiving the EMD’s letter, “we will go forth and make this all better,” said Christopher Conlin, city parks director.
Jose Hernandez, another neighborhood resident, said he and his 3-year-old daughter walk along the sidewalk the city will now be required to test on their way to the Mangan Park playground.
“How can we trust what they’re saying?” he said of city officials.
Elevated lead levels were consistently recorded inside the range between 2006 and 2014, in nearly every corner of the building. But it wasn’t until July 2014 that the city tested the building’s exterior. That first test found hazardous levels of lead dust on two roof vents, according to records obtained by The Bee through the Public Records Act. Another round of tests by environmental consultant Entek four months later found elevated lead dust readings throughout the inside of the range and on three spots on the roof, records show.
The city waited until 2014 to test the roof despite the warnings of a gun range consultant that issued a report more than two years earlier warning that the ventilation system appeared to be spewing unfiltered air from inside the facility to the outdoors.
City officials said the chain-link fence erected around the range is shielding the public from accessing “hot spots” in the soil outside the range where high levels of lead were discovered this month.