August 6, 2004
Hazardous waste at a gun range northeast of Mesa will be the subject of further testing and a possible cleanup operation as part of a pending agreement between two state agencies.
Duane Shroufe, director of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is expected to approve a voluntary program that would deal with the waste under state oversight, said the department’s assistant director, Marty Macurak.
Officials still don’t know whether the waste, which is in a septic tank on the grounds of the Rio Salado Shooting Range, poses a danger to people or groundwater. Preliminary testing showed the tank contained traces of chromium, lead, zinc and acetone.
The state began investigating the problem in April following inquiries by the Tribune. Shroufe knew as early as January about the potential for toxic waste at the site, but didn’t inform the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. He did not return calls this week.
DEQ director Steve Owens suggested in a July 23 letter to Shroufe that Game and Fish begin a Voluntary Remediation Program aimed at cleaning the site to "appropriate standards." Owens’ letter recommends several steps be taken as part of the work plan for the program, including pumping and inspection of the septic tank, getting information on surrounding groundwater and preparing to sample nearby soil.
"The Game and Fish people understand in retrospect that they should have contacted the Department of Environmental Quality right away," Owens said last week. "This is a pretty potentially significant matter."
Macurak said roughly $2,000 in taxpayer funds have been spent so far for the first tests. Another $4,000 has been committed for the remediation program’s application fee, which is $2,000, and the $110 per hour cost for a state expert who will oversee the plan. A contractor to be hired by Game and Fish to perform the actual work associated with the plan will cost a few thousand dollars more, but the eventual price is yet to be determined, Macurak said.
State officials have linked the toxic waste to gun bluing performed four years ago at a gunsmith shop on the range called Accuracy Speaks. Gun bluing is a chemical wash that helps guns look new. DEQ investigators will determine how the waste ended up in the tank, and anyone found responsible could face penalties or fees, said DEQ spokesman Cortland Coleman.
Cheryl Martin, whose husband, Derrick, owns the business, said the waste has nothing to do with the bluing process. Derrick Martin is a National Guardsman on assignment in Iraq, and could not be reached for comment.
"It’s more important to me that my husband comes home safely," she said.