Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Report: Plan means more lead in lakes

Muskegon, Mich. (AP) — The Coast Guard would become one of the
largest sources of the toxic metal lead entering the Great Lakes if
it goes through with a plan to create 34 live-fire weapons-training
zones in the lakes, according to federal data.

Coast Guard personnel would fire up to 430,000 bullets each year
in the training zones, which are to be scattered across all five
Great Lakes, The Muskegon Chronicle reported Oct. 16.

Because the bullets that the military agency plans to use are
largely made from lead and copper, the training exercises would
deposit as much as 6,900 pounds of lead and 2,800 pounds of copper
each year in the lakes, according to a health-risk assessment that
the Coast Guard commissioned.

“That’s more lead than the entire state of Michigan and all of
its industries and pollution sources emit to surface waters every
year,” said Hugh McDiarmid Jr., a spokesman for the Michigan
Environmental Council.

Michigan industries in 2004 discharged 4,069 pounds of lead
compounds into surface waters, according to data from the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.

Coast Guard officials say the live-fire training is needed to
protect the Great Lakes region from terrorism and other illegal
activities.

“We need to train in the environment in which we are going to
fire the weapons,” said Capt. Patrick W. Brennan.

The health-risk assessment, prepared by CH2M Hill Cos. Ltd., an
Englewood, Colo.-based engineering and construction firm, concluded
that sending hundreds of thousands of lead and copper bullets into
the Great Lakes would not pollute the lakes or poison aquatic
life.

Furthermore, the weapons training would “result in no elevated
risks for the Great Lakes,” according to the study.

Critics claim the exercises would turn the lakes into a military
zone, endanger boaters and others who use the lakes, and
potentially poison fish and other aquatic life with lead and other
toxic metals found in bullets.

Ingesting lead can cause brain damage, reproductive problems,
and cancer in humans, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry.

Rick Rediske, a scientist at Grand Valley State University’s
Annis Water Resources Institute, said the bullets would pose little
threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem because lead does not easily
dissolve in fresh water.

“There’s never been any evidence, that I’m aware of, of lead
accumulating in the food chain unless it was ingested by animals,”
said Rediske, a professor of water resources at the university. “I
wouldn’t anticipate the lead getting into the food chain.”

Public safety is another area of concern because many of the
proposed firing ranges are in areas frequented by fishing boats,
sailboats, and public transit ferry boats.

Coast Guard officials have said all the proposed zones are at
least five miles off the U.S. shoreline and the maritime border
with Canada. Each firing range would be used only a few times each
year, for four to six hours per day.

Federal officials have said they would alert boaters about
upcoming weapons training exercises and stop shooting if a boat
strayed into the firing range.

The Coast Guard has conducted 24 live-fire weapons-training
exercises on the Great Lakes this year, all without incident,
federal officials said.

The proposed firing ranges are the subject of a series of public
meetings, one of which was held Oct. 23 in Cleveland.

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