Gympie gun shop owner Ron Owen
Gympie gun shop owner Ron Owen Tom Daunt

Ron Owen: Lead poisoning fears at shooting range bogus

A letter to the editor by Ron Owen:

THANKS to Mr Goddard (August 4, 2018: Gympie Gunfire and Lead Pollution) for giving me the opportunity to alleviate his fears.

In his recent letter he claims in the following quote: "Lead slowly leaches into the water that falls on to gun club sites getting into surface water, ground water and spring water.”

Besides his confusion as to how lead finds its way into water falling on to gun clubs he is incorrect on his main premise, metallic lead, (the sort used in ammunition) is not soluble in water, metallic lead does not react with water. Water is polar, and lead is non-polar, so they are not soluble. Metallic lead is attacked (oxidised) only superficially by air, forming a thin layer of lead oxide that protects it from further oxidation. However, there are various lead compounds that are polar and easily dissolved in water; Lead nitrate and Lead acetate, but they are not used in ammunition.

The compound lead tetra-ethyl is applied as an additive in fuels. This organic lead compound is quickly converted to inorganic lead, and ends up in water, sometimes even in drinking water. Fortunately, this form of release of lead is less and less abundant.

We humans all contain lead, the average human body stores about 120 milligrams of lead in the bones and our daily intake of lead from all sources is about 0.1 milligrams.

Seawater contains trace amounts of lead (2-30 ppt). On average rivers contain between 3 and 30 ppb. Phytoplankton contains approximately 5-10 ppm lead (dry mass), freshwater fish approximately 0.5-1000 ppb, and oyster approximately 500 ppb. So if Mr Goddard is in fear of lead poisoning he should skip the oysters.

Shooting Clays, Ron Owen Gympie
Shooting Clays, Ron Owen Gympie LEEROY TODD

Lead occurs naturally in soils, the UMass soil testing website says that on average uncontaminated soil has 15 to 40 ppm of lead. That works out to there being about 400 pounds of lead in the first three feet of soil on an acre of land. Like the lead projectiles at the Victory Rifle ranges it is metallic lead and received its protective lead oxide coating a long time ago and remains harmless. We take lead from the soil and we re insert it back into the soil, the earth mounds at the back of the ranges. Yes, children licking paint off school walls and ladies rubbing lead, in make up, all over their bodies is not conducive to good health, but they are compounds such as lead nitrate and lead acetate, not metallic lead.

All that information he supplied from various "green” sources show that his contemporaries from the USA are similarly misinformed and confused on the metallurgy of lead and its compounds. Military training ranges are expensive to clear due to depleted uranium projectiles and un-exploded ordinance.

If he has any remaining doubts he should observe the evidence on his own doorstep just four kilometres away from Veteran, the thousand acres that comprise the two remaining sections of the Victory Rifle Range, split by the new railway line house the second largest koala colony in Queensland.

Ron Owen openening Owen's guns museum in Gympie.
Owen's guns museum in Gympie. Renee Albrecht

The wild turkeys and possums thrive at the Gympie Pistol Club, the kangaroos graze on the turf of the Gympie Clay Target Club and the wallabies sleep on the earth berms (mound) at the Gympie Smallbore and Silhouette Club. All shooting clubs proclaim their safety zones as fauna reserves and they have preserved this area for more than 100 years.

Mr Goddard's repeated complaints could be rectified very easily by Gympie Regional Council voting a resolution at a general meeting to return the Victory Range sites back to zone "community”, which would also serve to improve the trust between the council and the Gympie shooting fellowships.

Ron Owen

President Cooloola Range Complex Association Inc.