After years of waiting for a plan to clean up the abandoned Sharp Park Rifle Range on the coastside, the city of Pacifica and San Mateo County now have concerns about a proposal they say may threaten a sensitive area.
In a letter to the state Department of Toxic Substances Control last month, the county Department of Environmental Health said it couldn’t support the cleanup plan, which calls for the contaminated soil at the site to be capped and isolated by 1.5 feet of clean soil.
A perennial streambed in that area flows west into the Laguna Salada habitat, which plays host to the California red-legged frog and San Francisco garter snake, protected species, according to county officials.
"Placing lead-contaminated soil adjacent to and within the saturated zone will likely increase the potential for groundwater contamination," said the letter, which was echoed by one from the Pacifica City Council. "Placing lead-contaminated soil adjacent to the buried stream channel and backfill of the drainage and water line will likely increase the potential migration of contamination should groundwater become impacted."
The county’s letter asked that "an adequate thickness of clean fill" be placed over the soil and that the contaminated material be "placed away from stream channels where permeable sediments exist."
Pacifica City Councilmember Cal Hinton said the letters to the DTSC were part of a successful effort to persuade the department to open a public comment period.
"The consensus with a couple of the councilmembers is that we should be involved," Hinton said.
The DTSC took over the cleanup project from the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, which has had jurisdiction over Sharp Park since the early 1900s, when the Sharp family donated it to San Francisco.
The six-acre site operated as a rifle range from 1952 until 1988. It was closed after bullets were discovered in a nearby residential area, according to the DTSC.
The site has a high concentration of lead in the soil, "mainly from the shot and bullets," San Mateo County Environmental Health Director Dean Peterson said. There is also some leftover material from clay pigeons, which usually contain chemicals, he added.
Peterson said the county has been trying to get the cleanup process under way since 1990.
Angela Blanchette, a DTSC spokeswoman for the project, said a public comment period will occur Friday through Sept. 11. A public comment period is optional when the site is in a "very unpopulated area," she said.