GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan National Guard announced Thursday that it’s working to clean up lead dust from old indoor firing ranges at armories across the state.
Testing has shown higher lead levels at 26 armories, including those in Albion, Big Rapids, Greenville, Kalamazoo, Montague, Sturgis and Wyoming. However, officials with the public affairs office for the Michigan National Guard said they have known for years that there are trace amounts of lead in nearly all armories across the state.
“It’s nothing crazy. It’s nothing new,” said Capt. Corissa Barton with the Michigan National Guard. It’s just a continuation of the practices that we already had in place.”
The National Guard changed their standards from commercial to residential in September. Since then, the National Guard has been conducting tests and isolating areas that have higher levels of lead.
“The risk is already very minimal, but now, it’s considered too high for a residential standard,” Barton said.
The lead dust is residue from the indoor firing ranges and cleaning, maintenance, movement, storage of weapons or environmental factors.
“Now it’s all settled so if you disturb it and you’re touching it and repeatedly ingesting it, touching your mouth, eating without cleaning your hands after touching it, then that’s where the risk comes from,” Barton told 24 Hour News 8.
The risk of anyone getting sick from the lead dust in the armories is low, but the National Guard is stepping up their efforts as a precaution.
“You would have symptoms if you had lead poisoning so you would have had symptoms long before we even put out a memorandum stating there was lead present,” Barton said. “We are hanging placards. We’re doing medical monitoring of our full-time force and our soldiers that come in for drill weekends, but it’s not mandatory. It is optional for them. It’s not an immediate risk. It’s just creating a level of awareness that it is there and to avoid it, if at all possible.”
Public access and rentals will be restricted while the areas are re-mediated.
The National Guard says the areas are still safe for employees to continue their work in administrative areas of the building.
The following is a complete list of the armories affected:
• Bay City
• Big Rapids
• Grand Ledge
• Grand Valley
• Port Huron
• Sault Ste. Marie
Officials said there could also be trace amounts of lead in armories that do not have the indoor firing ranges from cleaning weapons and maintenance, but there would be a very minimal risk to the public and employees.
It is unknown when the restricted areas will reopen because the cleaning process takes a while, according to the National Guard.