Friday, April 22, 2011

Sandy Hollow Gun Range DNR letter

For the last few months my parents have been working hard organizing opposition to a proposed gun range at Sandy Hollow, near Sioux Center IA. My sister Heather wrote a great letter to the DNR expressing many problems with the gun range. She already said everything, basically, but I wrote a letter too, expressing my own perspective as a mom with a kid who eats dirt, drops things in the dirt, plays in the dirt, etc.

If this topic affects you, please contact Dale Garner ( to express your concern. Use the subject line "NIOSC gun range Sioux Center Iowa".

Here is a portion of my letter:

Lead poisoning is a dangerous problem, especially to children under 6 years old. The symptoms include irritability, learning difficulties, and fatigue. These symptoms can be easily confused with other problems or be ignored, meaning that children can suffer for extended periods of time without being diagnosed. Lead poisoning can cause miscarriage or premature birth for pregnant women.

Widespread lead contamination has been documented from shooting ranges. For example, the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware had contamination levels in the groundwater of 400 micrograms to 1 milligram per liter due to a shooting range in the area. The Sandy Hollow area is at risk for lead contamination since the west branch of the Floyd River runs through the area, and there are frequent floods that would contribute to the lead spreading downstream, soaking into the soil, or reaching the groundwater. The floods often reach over farmland nearby or downstream, and it seems that this poses a risk to farmers, livestock, and possibly even to the food supply. The EPA states that shooting ranges should not be near water for this reason.

As a parent I watch my child very closely, but as there is no fence planned around the edge of the shooting range, and guns might be shot very close to the borders and driveway of the property, I worry that my curious child might come into contact with lead pellets in the soil near the borders of the shooting area while taking a walk. I know that simply touching a lead pellet once is not likely to harm a child, but there is a definite risk for children who might accidentally ingest the lead. Even with close supervision, children tend to put objects and dirt in their mouths, or eat food that has been dropped in dirt. Children who live in the area could also be exposed to long term contamination through water or soil.

The noise level is another concern to me as a mom of young children, since the noise levels along the driveway at the edge of the property (estimated to be around 100 db) are high enough to cause hearing loss. Even in neighborning residential areas, the noise would be loud enough to disrupt outdoor activities, and would be concentrated in the times that people would want to spend outdoors.

If a shooting range is to be built in the Sioux County area, a site should be found that follows current expert recommendations: it should be a half mile or more to the nearest residence as recommended by the NRA (currently there are over 25 residences within a half mile of Sandy Hollow), the noise level should be 55 decibels or less at the property line as recommended by the NRA (at the Sandy Hollow site noise levels are estimated to be around 100 decibels at the property line), and the shooting range should not be near water, as recommended by the EPA. It would also be sensible to find a site that does not interfere with other healthy outdoor recreation and exercise such as fishing, biking, camping, running, walking, picnicking, photography, swimming and more.

The current plan would benefit only a few, while having a negative impact on many and causing risk to the smallest and most vulnerable.

The shooting range was designed by a DNR employee, and would depend on funding from the DNR, but as you can see it goes against the DNR's mission to enhance the quality of life and preserve natural resources. Please act to prevent this gun range from being built.


Heather said...

I'm glad you wrote a letter. So frustrating that the city, zoning committee, and even the DNR are eager to fund something this poorly thought out.

Anonymous said...

We know not what is good until we have lost it.

Zach said...

I disagree; making blogs and posts without all the information is frustrating. What I would like to know is if either of you have actually seen the plans for this? I have, since their conception nearly 5 years ago. While it may not be something either of you are interested in, it provides an excellent service for the local sportsmen and sportswomen along with the ability to attract others thus increasing revenue for the city. The concern about it being too loud for nearby residence has already been tested and it falls safely within regulations. Before you reply Heather I do know how close your parent’s property is to sandy hollow, my grandparents used to live just as close, and the shots register as loud as a car driving down that highway. Concerns about lead poisoning while they are valid, will not be a major issue in this situation. The design is to contain all shot in one central location. This location will be overgrown with grass, wild plants, and trees, thus deterring any curious children from entering. By having this area overgrown it also makes it extremely difficult for shot laying on the ground to be swept away by flooding, let alone the fact I can't remember the last time have even seen that river way outside of its banks. The concern about curios children is also legitimate, but precautions will be taken to keep them away. The last thing anyone wants in an unsupervised youth on a live gun range. This is my opinion, backed by facts, take it or leave it. But before discussing further, please look at the plans as I have, so you have solid information to back you claims.

Zach said...

I will definitely take your advise about contacting Dale Garner. I think this is range is an excellent idea and provides diversification to what the town of Sioux Center has to offer.

Hannah said...

Thanks for your comments Zach. I am glad that people are continuing to research and discuss this topic. I agree that producing revenue for the community and opportunities for sportsmen/women are good goals and hopefully a different solution can be found that still meets those goals.

The plans I have seen are the ones available at, which show the stations for the sporting clays right across from the Sandy Hollow driveway, and from many residences. They are much closer to the border of the property than recommended by the NRA.

I disagree with the statement that the noise "falls safely within regulations." To my knowledge, the noise would not be loud enough to damage hearing at nearby residences, but it is certainly much louder than most city's noise codes would allow, and in addition the NRA recommends a minimum half mile to any residence from the border of a shooting range (see diagram in subsequent blog post that shows the 1/2 mile radius).

You can also see pictures in a subsequent blog post of the 2010 flood. I also remember ice-skating on the golf course a few times as a kid, so it's definitely flooded to the Sandy Hollow driveway several times in 26 years. I am guessing once every ~5 years? The concern is that the flood water would soak the lead downstream or into the groundwater table. Hopefully you have a chance to check out the EPA recommendations I linked to in a later post.

Thanks again for your comment!

Chris said...

I live 6/10 of a mile from the DNR gun range in Plymouth County.They fire weapons through buried concrete tubes that face away from my house. There are berms surrounding it, 2 rows of 50 ft cottonwood trees,2 large gravel piles, and 1/2 mile of corn between the range and my house as a buffer. Small caliber weapons can be clearly heard outside. Larger caliber weapons can still be heard inside the house clearly. Loudly enough to sound like someone tapping on your window. It is very irritating at 6:00 AM on Saturday morning when trying to sleep. Don't let anyone tell you that a couple rows of bushes is going to muffle the sound. Putting a gun range any closer than 1/2 mile to anyones home is less than neighborly. You could also pretty much guarantee alot of empty camping spots down there.
The lead to my knowledge has never been cleaned up, the ground is littered with casings and trash, and the sign at the entrance is full of bullet holes originating from inside the range. the bullets passed through the sign and over the heavily traveled blacktop bordering the range. This is how the DNR polices there gun range.

Hannah said...

Thank you Chris for your comment!

My dad would love to talk to you about your experience living close to a DNR-run gun range. He is looking for information/evidence to present to the Sioux County Board of Supervisors to persuade them not to allow this range to be built.

If you're checking back here at all, could you please send me an email (hnnhhyr at gmail dot com) or give my dad (Gregg) a call at 712-441-four one nine nine?

Hannah said...

Disregard my previous comment, Chris, it looks like you have already gotten in contact.

Jeff said...

Zach, tell me what year is it that the river has not left its banks in spring time while the snow is melting or after heavy rains? I personaly went for a swim through the golf course this spring when the water was high. Yes it was cold but I make my point that the water was high enough to have a current and deffinatly high enough to submerge any lead on the ground. Along with the flowing water through the shooting range you seem confident that there will be no lead poisoning? While your confidence may be high, suppose lead poisoning did occur. who would be responcible for the hospital bills, live stock, poisoned ground and wild life affected by the lead? I suppose the "increasing" revenue in the city would cover all damages accquired for the shooting range? I know alot of the residences who live around sandy hallow and already houses are coming up for sale. Of course they will never get the money they put into it because the fact is that no one wants to live by the noise, danger, and hassle of a shooting range. O and if you have a valid test of noise levels done at sandy hallow, id love to know what the regulations are and weather you would like it if I shot my shotgun across the road from your house? I dont think so.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Sandy Hollow Golf Course for about 10 years in the 80's and early 90's. When the course would intermittently flood, it certainly produced currents strong enough to dislodge a cart bridge, push rock, large trees and a multitude of golf balls down the stream probably for miles. The farther away from the main stream, the less current there was.

I say with great confidence that unless the topography of the area has changed quite a bit, there would be a concentration of lead washed into the main river if it flooded at the magnitude it used to.
That being said, Atrazine, other herbicides, rodenticides, pesticides ALSO get washed in and have for years. The floyd river has one of the highest nitrite levels in the state.
Most of the risk of lead poisoning doesn't lie in the shot washing into the stream. Residents in the area stand a greater risk of lead poisoning from their own pipes in their home. That comes directly from EPA research.
Shooters themselves face a higher risk of lead poisoning due to inhaled vapors and lead dust taken home on their clothing rather than residents downstream drinking tap water which, by the way, leaves the treatment plant potable and is monitored for heavy metals already.
Zach mentioned plant material in the area and although it won't prevent shot from being washed away, many of those prarie plants, including Indian mustard act as a green barrier by absorbing and holding free form lead in their root systems and away from the watershed.
If lead in your tap remains a concern, run it for two minutes and then test it. You'll have to rule out the lead (if any) isn't coming from your pipes first. If you have copper and there's lead, call your rural water rep first..they might not doing something right.
I don't live in the area anymore so I can't speak to the sounds of the gunrange. Progress comes with drawbacks sometimes...