Editorials

City Hall needs to get the lead out

Allan Eaton, 62, of Sacramento uses a grill at Mangan Park. The picnic area is near the gun range, closed in December 2014 after tests showed it was contaminated with lead dust. The city didn’t test the picnic area until last week.
Allan Eaton, 62, of Sacramento uses a grill at Mangan Park. The picnic area is near the gun range, closed in December 2014 after tests showed it was contaminated with lead dust. The city didn’t test the picnic area until last week. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Sacramento officials have badly mishandled lead contamination at a city-owned gun range at Mangan Park, failing repeatedly to put public safety first and foremost.

Despite tests going as far back as 2006 that showed hazardous levels of lead dust inside the range, officials didn’t close it until December 2014. They still haven’t cleaned the range, merely posted a sign that it was “temporarily closed” and failed to notify park users or nearby residents.

And despite 2014 test results showing lead had made it outside to the building’s roof, they didn’t order tests of nearby soil until April 1, or of the surrounding park until last week – that is until after The Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Lillis started making inquiries for a Public Eye report published April 9.

When the new test results came in, they confirmed dangerous levels of lead immediately outside the range, on a walkway and in soil. Much to everyone’s relief, tests didn’t find any lead, or only far below dangerous levels, at the playground, picnic area, archery range or pool deck. After announcing the results, the city on Friday put a chain-link fence around the range.

The city plans a long-overdue community meeting Wednesday to discuss the situation, and is asking a Sacramento County public health official to attend. Officials have a lot to answer for, but first they should reinforce their promise to do everything necessary to address health and safety.

The next steps will come from the county’s Environmental Management Department, working with state the Department of Toxic Substances Control. Based on a review of the latest test results, they will decide on any further testing, determine the cleanup plan and will oversee the city’s follow-through.

Councilman Jay Schenirer, whose district includes the park on 34th Avenue near Freeport Boulevard, wants tests of nearby residential yards as well. Better safe than sorry.

The city blames its slow response, in part, on a lack of money for more than $1.7 million in repairs a consultant identified last year and a recent change in the parks director. City officials blame their relative silence on a lawsuit filed by a man who claims that he and his family were exposed to lead-contaminated dust between 2010 and 2015.

But there’s no real excuse for exposing anyone to potential harm. Going forward, the city has to do better.

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