Aurora Sportsmen's Club sued over contamination at Sugar Grove site
The Illinois Attorney General's office has filed a lawsuit against the Aurora Sportsmen's Club, seeking damages and cleanup of lead shot deposited on several acres at the Bliss Woods Forest Preserve, where the club used to shoot until five years ago.
The lawsuit, filed in Kane County on behalf of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the state's Environmental Protection Agency, and state's Nature Preserves Commission, seeks a $10,000-per-day fine dating back to July 2009, a total of nearly $18 million.
"We set forth the maximum penalty allowed by the statute in our complaint," said Maura Possley, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office. "There are also statutory factors to be considered when determining an appropriate penalty if a matter is resolved by a trial court or settlement."
But David Lombardo, the club's president, said the lawsuit is mostly a procedural move. The club is aware of the situation and has been working with authorities to resolve it, he said.
The club used to own land near Bliss Woods and lead shot accidentally fell into small patches of land during shooting events, he said.
"What we didn't realize was some of the (lead) shot was going into the woods," Lombardo said. "We're in meetings with the Attorney General's Office. We're in full agreement to work with them to resolve the issue. That's where it's at. We're not ducking it."
The club now shoots in Waterman, which is about a half-hour west of Sugar Grove.
A message left with the club's attorney, Charles Pavesich, was not returned Tuesday.
The lawsuit accuses the club of contaminating 2.5 acres of the 190-acre preserve with lead shot and violating the rules of what activities can take place in a forest preserve.
The suit also accuses the club of polluting Blackberry Creek. A sample taken in October 2013 from temporary EPA monitoring wells had reached .429 milligrams of lead per liter, which exceeded the .1 milligram per liter standard.
The lawsuit also seeks to have the club pay a $50,000 fine per EPA violation, as well as costs already incurred for monitoring, cleanup, testing and environmental consultants.
"Between approximately 1995 and July 2009, and on such other dates better known to the defendant, members of the defendant's gun club engaged in recreational shooting on the gun club site in such a manner that individual shot pellets, weathered pellets and scattered shot wads were introduced from the gun club site to the Bliss Woods Forest Preserve and Blackberry Creek," part of the suit reads. "Violations of the pertinent environmental statutes and regulations will continue until and unless this court grants equitable relief in the form of preliminary and, after trial, permanent injunctive relief."
The lawsuit states that lead shot pellets were clearly visible on the ground at the preserve in January 2013 and October 2013, and along the banks of the creek in January 2013.
Lombardo said no one has become ill because of the lead shot.
"No one has gotten sick. It's an isolated area," he said. "This is shot. It just lays there on the ground."
The parties are due in Kane County court Oct. 14.