Land and groundwater

Contamination from shooting ranges

Close-up image of gun

Image courtesy of Field & Game Australia.

On this page:

Contamination from shooting ranges

Target shooting sports, conducted at shooting ranges across Victoria, play a valuable role in the community. Activities at shooting ranges, however, can cause contamination and pose a risk to human health and the environment. Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is committed to protecting Victoria’s people and environment, while supporting these sports to continue and benefit the community.

A range of potential contaminants are common at shooting ranges, but lead usually has the greatest potential to harm human health and the environment. Lead makes up the largest part of most types of ammunition and significant levels of it can be released at shooting ranges. At some larger shotgun ranges it can be up to tens of tonnes a year. Clay targets can also contain substances known as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which can pose a risk.

Contamination from shooting ranges is a concern because:

  • Exposure to lead can harm people’s health. 
  • It can spread and contaminate nearby land such as other sports grounds, parks, housing or farmland. Areas might become unusable for certain activities, such as farming or sports, and land values could be affected. 
  • Grazing livestock can ingest contaminants such as lead. People can be harmed if they consume contaminated meat and dairy products. 
  • The local environment and animals can be harmed, especially foraging animals and aquatic animals, if water is contaminated. 
  • It is a requirement under the Environment Protection Act 1970 that organisations protect human health and the environment.

Managing the risks

What shooting ranges can do

Operators of any activity need to assess and manage their risks. EPA has developed the following resources to assist shooting ranges manage their risks:

EPA is also developing guiding documents for land use planners when they are assessing applications for proposed new ranges or land use changes to operating or former ranges, to prevent and manage contamination from shooting activities. Those planning new shooting ranges will find much of the content in the Guide for managing contamination at shooting ranges (publication 1710) useful, however they will need to seek further advice on planning regulations.

What EPA is doing

Science

EPA is an evidence-led organisation that uses data to inform its work and direct resources. At the request of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), EPA undertook an assessment of potential environmental and human health risks posed by outdoor shooting ranges across Victoria. EPA has identified and assessed over 300 current and former shooting range sites using a desktop review. The desktop assessment used public information sources to compare shooting ranges in Victoria to geographic data to understand their proximity to sensitive locations, such as schools or waterways.

Investigations

EPA has investigated contamination in areas adjacent to various shooting ranges. Primary concerns are to limit public exposure to potential contamination from lead shot and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). EPA is working with other relevant agencies and gun clubs on a priority basis to ensure any major risks are appropriately managed in a timely manner. Potential contamination at Victorian shooting ranges is dealt with like any other type of environmental contamination. That means EPA can use its statutory powers under the Environment Protection Act 1970 to hold polluters and landholders to account and issue remedial notices requiring sites to be cleaned up. Sites currently under notice by EPA for contamination are being managed through EPA regional offices. Please contact EPA on 1300 372 842 (1300 EPA VIC) or email contact@epa.vic.gov.au for further information and they will direct you to the relevant regional office. Investigation of these sites is consistent with EPA's compliance and enforcement policy.

Sites currently under investigation include:

 

Q&A on contamination from shooting ranges + Expand all Collapse all

  • What are the potential contaminants found at shooting ranges?

    Traditional ammunition contains a wide range of metals. These can include antimony, arsenic, copper, zinc, nickel, tin, strontium, magnesium, barium, and mercury – but lead is present in the largest quantities and is most likely to impact human health.

    Shooting ranges (e.g. clay target ranges, rifle ranges, pistol ranges, and field and game ranges) can in some instances cause lead (from lead ammunition) and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs – chemicals found in some types of clay targets) to contaminate land, surface water and groundwater. For more details, please refer to the Shooting ranges - guidance page and the Guide for managing contamination at shooting ranges (publication 1710).

  • What are the potential health risks from lead and PAH exposure?

    Lead exposure may occur from ingestion of contaminated soil or dust or from drinking contaminated water. People with elevated blood lead levels rarely show obvious symptoms.

    For more information about lead exposure, see Lead exposure and poisoning on the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel.

    Anyone concerned about their health should consult their doctor.

    The hazard posed by PAHs (found in some types of clay targets) varies between compounds. Some PAHs are classified as carcinogenic to humans and can be absorbed through ingestion, inhalation or skin contact. Potential health effects are largely linked to levels of exposure – the more exposed you are to PAHs, the more likely are the risks to your health.

    For more information see the Human health section of our website.

  • How did EPA conduct its desktop assessment of shooting ranges?

    How was the assessment conducted?

    As an evidence-led regulator, EPA uses sets of data to help inform decision making and focus resources.

    Using public information sources, EPA compared shooting ranges in Victoria against geographic data to understand their proximity to sensitive locations, such as schools or waterways.

    The assessment provided an estimate of whether a site was likely to be located near a sensitive land use and if therefore any further assessment was required.

Page last updated on 1 Mar 2019