Lawsuit claims FBI gun range pollutes Lake Michigan


Tribune reporter

CHICAGO, Ill. — A lawsuit is targeting the FBI's shooting range in North Chicago, seeking to halt the discharge of lead bullets into Lake Michigan over pollution concerns, the executive director of a non-profit environmental group said Wednesday.

"The lawsuit accuses them of damage to natural resources and [causing] a government-created public nuisance," said Steven Pollack, attorney and executive director of Blue Eco Legal Council in Northbrook, which filed the suit.

The U.S. Justice Department, Coast Guard, Navy, Marines and Department of Defense were named as defendants in the lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Pollack said the lawsuit seeks a court order barring the FBI from firing the ammunition into Lake Michigan because of possible environmental contamination, especially to North Chicago's water supply. The city's public water intake pipe is within the 2,900 acres of Lake Michigan assigned to the firing range.The lawsuit, Pollack said, also asks the court to order a cleanup of the spent shells at a possible cost of more than $35 million.

Justice Department officials declined to comment Wednesday. Efforts to reach the FBI were unsuccessful.

The military used the firing range as a training facility starting before World War I. At the end of World War II, the range was deeded to the FBI to train agents and local police officers.

The practice, according to the lawsuit, violates federal and state laws set out in the Clean Water Act and other statutes designed to protect the environment and human health.

Pollack said information he received from the Justice Department through the Freedom of Information Act indicated the North Chicago firing range was designed to use 2,900 acres of Lake Michigan for its facility. Officials also estimated 650,000 rounds of ammunition are fired at the range each year by approximately 2,500 law-enforcement agents. The range, near Foss Park, has indoor and outdoor firing stations, Pollack said.

In 2006, Pollack's group helped pressure the Coast Guard to scuttle plans for routine target practice with boat-mounted machine guns in 34 areas across the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard had begun live-fire training exercises earlier in the year after becoming part of the Department of Homeland Security.

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