National Guard halts events in lead-contaminated armories

AP News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2016 9:13 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The National Guard has stopped all public events at toxic armories across the country in a step to prevent lead exposure.

The order comes a week after an investigation by The Oregonian found that lead from indoor firing ranges had contaminated hundreds of buildings, including nine in Oregon, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported (https://goo.gl/Tvf2hx).

The order, issued Dec. 6, was received by the Oregon Guard on Friday, an Oregon Guard spokesman told the newspaper. Nine Oregon armories were immediately closed to community events.

The order sets imminent deadlines, pledges federal money for cleanup and launches an effort to collect details about contaminated buildings nationwide.

Previous cleanup efforts were sidetracked partly because the Guard required states to assume most of the cost.

The national price tag of the initiative isn't clear, but cleaning contaminated armories could cost federal taxpayers tens of millions. Oregon National Guard officials estimate that taking out lead from the state's armories and repurposing firing ranges will cost $21.6 million.

Oregon spent $2 million on one armory cleaning alone. Ohio spent $3 million decontaminating armories last year.

The order comes almost 20 years after the Guard was warned that its indoor firing ranges were unnecessarily exposing soldiers and others to dangerous lead dust.

It is imperative for states to start cleaning their armories, Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, wrote in the Dec. 6 order.

The order sets deadlines and provides a way for federal Guard officials to have added oversight of toxic armories. But it establishes no firm date for all armories to be cleaned.

National Guard officials did not respond to calls and emails from the newspaper for comment.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com