Aurora gun club settles suit, will pay fine and clean creek
Last summer, the president of the Aurora Sportsmen's Club took full responsibility after the Illinois attorney general's office filed a lawsuit against the club over lead shot contamination at parts of a Sugar Grove forest preserve that carried a potential $18 million in fines.
"We're in full agreement with them to resolve the issue. That's where it's at," club President David Lombardo said at the time. "We not ducking it."
The club recently settled the lawsuit, agreeing to nearly $15,000 in fines and to submit a plan by mid-April to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to clean up parts of the Bliss Woods Forest Preserve and Blackberry Creek by Oct. 31, 2016, and conduct regular soil and water tests, according to Kane County court records.
The club, which now shoots in Waterman, about 30 minutes west of Sugar Grove, used to own land near Bliss Woods and lead shot accidentally fell into small patches of land during shooting events.
The attorney general's office accused the club of contaminating about 2.5 acres of the 190-acre preserve and violating the rules of what types of activities can take place in a forest preserve between 1995 and July 2009.
The government's lawsuit also accused the club of polluting a small area at Blackberry Creek, saying lead shot pellets were clearly visible on the ground and at the preserve in January 2013 and October 2013.
The lawsuit, also filed on behalf of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the state's Nature Preserves Commission, could have sought a $10,000 per day fine against the club, dating back to July 2009 for a total of $18 million.
Despite the potential penalties, Lombardo said authorities have been "very fair" with the club.
The club has hired a consultant, who is working with state environmental official to develop a cleanup plan, Lombardo said.
"It's been a positive process," he said. "I'm quite satisfied with the way it's been going. We're just doing it one step at a time of how they want it done."
Authorities and the club signed a "consent order" in mid-January, which is an order that helps settle a disputed claim without having to incur costs of contested legislation.
As part of the settlement, the club will pay $14,266 and can be fined $200 a day if its cleanup plan is not completed by Oct. 31, 2016.
Club attorney Charles Pavesich could not be reached Wednesday.
The club is required to begin the project 30 days after approval by the state's EPA; Lombardo said the cost has not been determined and the contaminated area in the forest preserve could be as little as one-third of an acre.
Another area shooting club, the Naperville Sportsman's Club, also had an issue involving lead shot contamination at a park that is shoots at near downtown Naperville.
The club recently reopened its range after an extensive remediation by the Naperville Park District.