Philadelphia Gun Club Annual Shoot Over Delaware River
In Short -- Delaware Riverkeeper Network's legal action seeking that the Philadelphia Gun Club comply with the Clean Water Act was a success.
The Philadelphia Gun Club owns property adjoining the Delaware River in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. The Club operates an outdoor shooting range on its property adjoining the Delaware River. The Club’s members have used the outdoor range for recreational target shooting for approximately 132 years. Delaware Riverkeeper Network believes that the Club hosts at least twelve regular, day-long trap shoot meets for its members each and every year. Unlike other gun clubs, the Philadelphia Gun Club uses live pigeons at its trap shoot meets for target practice instead of clay ones. Trap shoot meets like these are more commonly referred to as live pigeon shoots.
For video of what is taking place at the gun club see here.
Why is this activity so concerning? Because of the configuration of the Club’s shooting range and the layout of its property, all shooting on the outdoor range occurs over and in the direction of the Delaware River. This activity results in the continuous discharge of pollution to the river as shot, shot fragments and wadding composed of lead, steel and other metals and materials enter the Delaware River. Despite discharging pollutants into the Delaware River, the Club is operating without any necessary environmental permits.
The Club’s activity also poses a hazard to the physical safety of those who boat and recreate on the Delaware River and are not aware of the need to take precautions to protect themselves. The Club admitted the danger of personal injury in statements it made to the United States Coast Guard, yet it has done nothing to warn or otherwise protect the public from the Delaware River adjoining its shooting range.
For these reasons, October 26, 2010 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network sent the Philadelphia Gun Club a notification that if the facility did not stop violating the Clean Water Act with its annual live pigeon shoots that they would file a citizen suit for violation of State and Federal law.
The notice letter reads: “The PGC holds live pigeon shoots on its property adjoining the Delaware River at 3051 State Road, Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and has been doing so for well over one hundred years. During the course of these day-long shooting events, the PGC discharges and allows the discharge of pollutants (including, but not limited to, lead shot and fragments, steel shot and fragments and shot and fragments composed of other metals) into the Delaware River without a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit ("NPDES permit") in violation of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act ("Clean Water Act" or "CWA") and Pennsylvania's Clean Streams Law.
March 30, 2012 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed a complaint: challenging the pollution caused by the Philadelphia Gun Club’s ongoing live pigeon shoots. The complaint was filed in District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit challenges the pigeon shoots as a violation of the Clean Water Act, introducing ongoing pollution into the Delaware River in the form of gun shot and both live and dead birds which rain down on the water during the regularly held events.
September 17, 2012 the Federal District Court in Philadelphia entered a final judgment against the Philadelphia Gun Club in the Clean Water Act citizen suit brought by the Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya van Rossum, and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. The judgment obligates the Philadelphia Gun Club to apply for a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection by December 31, 2012, and to pay legal costs incurred by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
December 31, 2012, the last day of the year, the gun club finally files their application. But it is an application that sorely misrepresents the activities of the gun club and the level of shot that hits the water and could hit any boaters who happen to be passing by. DRN sends DEP multiple letters pointing out the misrepresentations and the law that requires permitting for the PGC's activities.
September 9, 2013 the DEP issues a short decision asserting the gun club's activities require no regulation.
October 9, 2013 the Delaware Riverkeeper Network challenges the DEP's decision.