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NMLRA member Gene Fahey and Morgan Mundell, managing director, check out the progress on the lead reclamation at one of the trap ranges. It’s a lot like gold mining with machines removing the soil to process the lead. Above, Mundell shows the result of their recycling efforts.

Mary Mattingly

For the first time in the organization’s 80 years, the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association is recycling the lead they have shot and left behind.

The NMLRA, with headquarters in Friendship, has begun the process of conducting lead reclamation activities on the Walter Cline Range. The 3-4 acre trap station is one of three trap firing ranges on the privately owned 500+ acres. The lead is a byproduct of the hundreds of shoots and recreational activity of the 15,000 members over the years.

Morgan Mundell, the managing director, said the board sees this lead reclamation as a no-lose situation. “By doing this, the association makes money and at the same time is a good steward of the land.” The reclamation is not required by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but it is considered a best management practice, he said, and an environmental example for other ranges in the country to consider.

Lead Recovery Systems, of Brooklyn, Michigan, won the contract, and fortunately for the NMLRA, had a contract cancellation so they could work in the Friendship range. There are only a few contractors who do this type of work in the country. The range closed July 11, and will be re-opened in time for a family shoot on Aug. 10-11.

In the meantime, there are three machines on the property to remove the soil and process it to reclaim the lead. One is a bulldozer, needed for the dirt removal and to climb the steep hill. They did so without removing any of the trees. Trees help enrich the soil.

The process is similar to gold mining. “The soil or dirt is removed through a large machine that ‘washes’ and screens the lead out of the soil,” Mundell explained. Water is used to help with the separation, and then a machine literally shakes out the lead. “Lead is lighter than rock. The rocks sink, and the lead pours out,” in the form of a gray bb-sized ball, he said.

It is then poured into containers, weighed and stacked. There were 13, 2,000 pound lead containers waiting for shipment, and that’s just what’s been processed in five days. Each are valued around $1,600, depending on the market.

It does not cost the association anything, as costs are recovered by selling the lead to scrap recyclers.
Mundell figures they’ll net anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 when the lead is sold. Part of the revenue depends on the commodities market, but currently lead is going for 78 cents a pound, up from 30 cents a year ago. Lead is in demand, particularly with China getting in the commodities picture, and the demand for ammunition, according to Mundell.

He is anxious for the process to be completed in time for the August family shoot. Weather always plays a part into such work. The big national shoot follows a few weeks later, drawing 2,000 members and visitors. “The mess has gotten bigger and bigger…they are working daily, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., depending on the weather,” Mundell admits.

Gene Fahey, a NMLRA long-time member, recently watched the process and heard it from his campsite 300 yards away. He knows long-time members don’t like to disturb their land, “but what they don’t realize is this hill, this land, is not like it once was. They used to run cattle on it in the ‘30s. It’s not old growth, but new growth.”

The trap range is the first reclamation project, but they plan to reclaim other areas on the property as well. They have three trap stations, two skeet ranges, a sporting clay range and several rifle and pistol ranges.
The extracted “clean” dirt will be used eventually for berms, or to fill holes left by missed targets. Mundell easily digs out five pea-sized lead balls in the ground from one hole by a target to show an example of what is left behind.

For those concerned about lead in the water, the NMLRA gets the water tested regularly and it’s always come back approved safely for use, according to Mundell.
The public is invited to watch the process at the Friendship site, and there is a video and pictures on their website at www.nmlra.org.

Backpacks given away Saturday

A backpack/school supply drive will be held this Saturday. The Versailles Church of Christ “Outreach Team” will hold its third annual backpack and school supply drive from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the church. Last year, 100 backpacks were filled with supplies and distributed. The goal is to exceed that number this year. Collection spots are at the Dollar General store in Osgood and Alco in Versailles. Pizza Hut and Gold Star Chili helped also with a portion of sales going to the purchase of school supplies.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Food bank date change
• Fewer South Ripley students means less revenue
• Results posted for 2013 Ripley County 4-H Horse and Pony Show


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