Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lead Recovery - Big Business

Oregon Live reports on a fascinating burgeoning business that may have an important environmental impact.

Marks says he and Harris dig 70 to 80 test holes and analyze the soil at 3-inch depth intervals to estimate the recoverable lead per square foot. Then they plot their work on a grid based on the location of shooting stations and the shot fall pattern.

They scoop layers of dirt and dump it into a pair of revolving metal tubes, one inside the other, that screen and wash the material. Tiny shotgun pellets, heavy enough that they aren't washed away with the dirt, emerge from the final screening. Pellets are loaded into 55-gallon drums and hauled away.

It's a business that's taken off nationally. Dan Pohle, of Butlerville, Ind., sells modified mining equipment to contractors who recover lead from ranges. One range owner estimated he had 750,000 pounds of lead sitting on his range -- potentially worth several hundred thousand dollars.
One time Sebastian told me the lead from bullets is stable and doesn't result in environmental poisoning. Is that true? These folks up in Oregon don't seem to think so.

Please leave a comment.


  1. The Lone Ranger quit using lead 80 years ago. Since then we've taken it out of plumbing solder, paint, gasoline and even cheap toys. Too bad "green bullets," as discussed in this supporting document to a thesis submitted at Princeton, never caught on. I mean, I know bullets are intended to kill, so maybe the Lone Ranger was being a little bit over-cautious about lead poisoning. But even infinitesimal amounts of lead in the blood can cause serious nerve damage. It is imminently possible for lead to leach into soils and groundwater.

    Green bullets are made with tungsten and tin. Remember, making bullets more costly makes good sense.

  2. "Green bullets are made with tungsten and tin. Remember, making bullets more costly makes good sense."

    Poll taxes made good sense too. After all, there was no harm in driving up the cost of voting. Right?

    But green bullets will never catch on for several reasons:

    1. Lead is much cheaper and plentiful. People will just start hoarding lead and casting their own bullets. You go to your local tire shop and they'll sell you lead wheel weights by the bucket.

    2. Tungsten bullets are "armor piercing" in Gunbannerese.

    3. They cause cancer.

  3. Lead is not "stable" in that it will not go anywhere when exposed to the elements. In areas where the pH is low,such as soils within an evergreen forest, the lead is easily dissolved under the low pH (acid) conditions, especially when there is a significant rainfall. Rainfall that has a low pH (acid rain) will also dissolve lead and transport it to the areas of water runoff (i.e. brooks, streams,ponds, lakes, aquifer recharge areas). Lead is water soluable, low pH just enhances the dissolution rate of the lead in water.
    In bodies of water where the pH is neutral or slightly alkaline, the exterior of the lead will react with carbonates in the water and form lead carbonates which are kess soluable. The problem with that is when waterfowl ingest it. The action of pohysical grinding in their crops breaks up the lead releasing it to their digestive tract (acid in the stomach) and they succomb to lead poisoning.
    You can absorb lead into your body just by handling the bullets. Melting lead gives off lead vapors (fumes) and breathing that in is a main line to your circulatory system (blood). Powdered lead, which occurs when a bullet strikes something solid, becomes part of the fine soils that get blown around as a dust, which can be inhaled or ingested.