Gun range in south Sacramento park leaked toxic lead dust
Sacramento Councilman Jay Schenirer asked the city manager Monday to order tests of residential yards for lead contamination near a closed city gun range in Mangan Park where test records show the toxic substance leaked outside at high levels.
Schenirer also requested that the city pursue soil tests around Mangan Park on 34th Avenue, where the gun range has stood for decades. The park, which is in Schenirer’s district, includes a playground, swimming pool and athletic fields used by families and soccer leagues.
Schenirer’s request follows a Sacramento Bee report Sunday that revealed the city closed the James G. Mangan Rifle and Pistol Range in December 2014 after high levels of lead contamination were found inside the range and on the building’s roof. The city never notified residents or park users of the lead levels discovered on the roof; the only notice of the closure was a sign taped to a gun range door stating “temporarily closed” that did not offer an explanation.
The city has not cleaned the range and ordered tests only on the soil adjacent to the facility after The Bee made inquiries last month. The results of those April 1 soil tests are expected this week.
Schenirer wants tests on a broader scale.
“Per the article in The Sacramento Bee and the possibility of lead contamination beyond the gun range, I would request that you have soil sampling done to test for lead in additional areas around the park and adjacent residential properties,” Schenirer wrote in an email Monday to City Manager John Shirey.
Shirey said in a text message he could not comment “since this matter is in litigation.”
“Once we have the results of the current investigation (soil sampling), we will undertake any steps necessary to address health and safety concerns,” City Attorney James Sanchez said.
The city should have told us. We would have had the choice whether we wanted to step foot in that park or not.
Kathy Ely, a Mangan Park resident for more than 20 years
Ian Willis filed a lawsuit in October against the city and two of the gun clubs that operated the range, claiming he and his family were exposed to lead-contaminated dust there between 2010 and 2015. He is seeking help with his family’s medical expenses and an undetermined reward for pain and suffering, his attorney said.
Phillip Mastagni, an attorney representing Willis, said his client has “extreme, extreme lead poisoning.”
He said Willis’ gums bleed, his hair fell out and he suffers dizziness. Willis’ wife, Addie Hauschild-Willis, was also exposed to lead dust in the range and suffered a miscarriage in December 2014, according to a claim she filed with the city of Sacramento. Their 5-year-old son, Laeken, visited Mangan Park and the gun range and was also exposed to lead, the lawsuit alleges.
“The city has shirked its responsibility to maintain the park, which includes the range, and keep it free from lead,” Mastagni said in an interview. “The city knew the gun range wasn’t safe; they knew it was extremely hazardous and poisonous.”
The city of Sacramento denied the allegations in court documents, saying the Willis family “freely and voluntarily assumed the risk of injury and damage alleged in the complaint” and “their sole or partial negligence was the proximate cause of the acts and events alleged in the complaint.” Sanchez said in an email the city is “assessing the Willis case.”
Meanwhile, environmental and health agencies are determining whether to investigate conditions at the range.
The state Department of Toxic Substances Control referred a “citizen complaint” it received Monday to Sacramento County’s Environmental Management Department, according to Sandy Nax, a spokesman for the state agency. He said the complaint was referred to Sacramento County “because they have the regulatory oversight and we don’t permit these types of facilities. They have the local authority to respond.”
Kelly McCoy, a deputy division chief in the Environmental Health Division of Sacramento County’s Environmental Management Department, said in an email the department was “aware of (The Bee’s) article and our Environmental Compliance Division is looking into it.”
The department “is attempting to gather the City reports regarding the indoor target shooting range for its review. Recommendations will be made after the review, if appropriate,” department spokeswoman Brenda Bongiorno said.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, wrote a letter to Shirey on Monday saying “the presence of lead contamination at a facility located within the boundaries of a public park is not only alarming, but also may be a violation of the Hazardous Waste Control Act.” McCarty is a member of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Toxics and Safety.
“I respectfully request that all appropriate action is taken to ensure the health and safety of all Mangan Park residents,” McCarty wrote.
The city conducted more than 20 tests for lead inside the range between 2006 and 2014. The element was found in nearly every room of the building, often at levels far above those defined by the California Department of Public Health as hazardous to human health.
A 2012 assessment by TRS Range Services found the range’s ventilation system appeared to be spewing unfiltered air from inside the building to the outdoors. But it wasn’t until July 2014 that the city tested the roof and those first tests found lead in two vents at levels 70 times higher than the state hazard threshold, according to test records obtained by The Bee through the Public Records Act.
Another test in November 2014 again found lead on the roof and throughout the range interior above state hazard levels, according to a report by environmental consultant Entek, which conducted the tests.
70 Times higher than state threshold of lead reading in two roof vents at Mangan Park gun range
Kathy Ely, who has lived near Mangan Park for more than 20 years, said she wants the city to test the soil outside her home.
“The fact that they’ve known about this thing but didn’t do anything until they got caught, I think their priorities have been a little skewed,” she said Monday. “I do believe that if this happened in one of the more affluent neighborhoods surrounding our neighborhood, they would have done more sooner.”
Ely said many of her neighbors visit the park regularly and that soccer teams from throughout the region use the fields for tournaments.
“The city should have told us,” she said. “We would have had the choice whether we wanted to step foot in that park or not.”
At least one youth soccer organization has decided to stop using the practice fields at Mangan Park until the city’s soil tests come back.
Chris Churchill, president of Sacramento United, said Monday about 50 kids between the ages of 4 and 8 practice at Mangan Park. Those teams will be moved to Granite Regional Park, he said.
Diana Riddell has lived two blocks from the Mangan Park range since 1998. For the past six years, Riddell said she walked her dog everyday past the range – sometimes twice a day.
Riddell said she was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer in 2014. Although she said there was never any evidence that lead exposure was a cause of her cancer, she now plans to discuss the risk with her doctors.
“I just want something done (about the gun range),” she said. “I’m just really worried about it. I don’t even want to walk around that area anymore.”