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Bullets removed from the U-shaped berm ranged in size from ¼ inch to 2 inches. Larimer County didn't allow trap or skeet shooting, so lead shot or clay target fragments were not a cleanup issue.

Stephen Gillette had a dilemma. In 2002, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved his request for a landfill expansion. The solid waste director for Larimer County, Colo., wanted to expand his landfill vertically by about 70 feet.

The berms surrounding the landfill had been used from 1986 to 2001 as a public shooting range, riddling the trash with lead, which had the potential to leak into groundwater if touched by acidic fluids.

In 2003, Gillette got the go-ahead to expand the 50-year-old unlined landfill (it lies on Pierre shale), but the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had a stipulation: The earthen berm had to be tested for lead contamination, and soil levels that exceeded toxic characteristic leaching procedure (known as TCLP) had to be stabilized.

So he made a decision: Get rid of the lead. It would be easier to remove the bullets now, rather than years down the road when several more layers of trash would be on top of them.

“We didn't have to do it,” says Gillette. “We could either spend a penny now to remove them or millions later. It was the environmentally prudent action.”

Anyone visiting the landfill could just “walk out and see the lead bullets,” says Gillette, which isn't the “good-neighbor” aspect landfills like to promote. So the county tapped into its enterprise fund, comprised of tipping fees and recycling revenues, to pay for testing and cleanup that ultimately cost $136,000.

The Process

Larimer County used engineering firm Terracon, Fort Collins, Colo., to perform the testing and act on its behalf through the cleanup. Led by Susanne Cordery-Cotter, PE, Terracon performed two tasks: assessment and managing remediation.

Along each part of the process, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had to approve the results. Terracon coordinated with Gillette at Larimer County, cleanup company WRS Infrastructure & Environment Inc., and the state regulators.

The first stage of testing, which started in early 2004, was to monitor a well near the shooting range for groundwater contamination. Even though there was the possibility of lead-acid batteries (from landfilled cars 20 years earlier) leaking into the south part of the range and plenty of bullets in the berm, no lead was found in the well. Good news for Gillette.