Citing Issues With Environmental Regulators, Barnstable Shooting Range Vote Delayed To January

507511077HYANNIS – The town of Barnstable is in a kind of Catch-22 when it comes to its shooting range at the West Barnstable Conservation area, according to Barnstable Assistant Town Administrator Mark Ells.

State environmental officials were set to approve a 16-acre land swap to allow the shooting range area to be taken out of conservation status. That status was going to go instead to land off Breed’s Hill Road near the town’s industrial park.

But then the town began looking into the extent of lead contamination in the shooting range area and discovered it extended to 27 acres. That makes the land swap problematic and also brings concern from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“DEP does not have clear policy relative to any of this, nor do they have regulations,” Ells told the town council last night in a wide ranging update on the shooting range.

Both town councilors and citizens have been asking why it has been taking so long to reopen the facility, Ells said.

The town closed the shooting range down in December 2012 after the town’s insurance company realized the range was not included in the town’s policy. That led to involvement by the state’s environmental officials and that’s where the matter remains.

State environmental funds were used originally to purchase the 1,100-acre West Barnstable Conservation Area and the land had been set aside for “passive” recreation, which does not include shooting ranges.

The DEP does not get involved with shooting ranges but if the town wants to both operate the range and clean up lead on the property, that creates an unusual situation for the DEP, Ells said.

Ells said either they accept that it is an operating shooting range, “or they have, ‘it’s been abandoned; it’s not a range and it falls under 21E and you clean it up.’”

The 21E statute refers to the provisions for an environmental clean-up site.

Now that the contamination has been discovered, the town is looking into the feasibility of cleaning it up, which is estimated to cost in the millions.

“We’re asking [DEP] and [the state division of conservation services] is asking [DEP] to step into an area where it isn’t clear and that’s where we are right now in that discussion,” Ells said.

Town council members voted unanimously last night to spend $35,000 to dig three monitoring wells at the range to see how deep the contamination goes and whether it has hit groundwater. The testing will proceed through November, according to Barnstable Department of Public Works Director Dan Santos.

In the meantime, the town has sent out more than 2,000 surveys to past users of the range to see if they would still be interested in using the facility if the prices go up. The council is considering raising the prices to help cover the cost of the clean-up.

The council voted to postpone the decision on whether to reopen the range to wait for the results of the test wells, the result of the surveys and the result of continuing talks with environmental officials.

The matter will be on the council’s agenda at its January 7 meeting.


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