Delaware Riverkeeper Network sues Pa. gun club for sending pollutants into the waterway

By Jon Campisi | Apr 2, 2012

An organization tasked with protecting the quality of water in the Delaware River has filed a federal lawsuit against a Pennsylvania sports club, alleging the discharge of pollutants that comes with live pigeon shoots and other recreational shooting events held by the group is harming the waterway.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network filed suit March 30 against The Philadelphia Gun Club, a nonprofit organization based in Bensalem, Pa. that operates an outdoor shooting range on its property, which adjoins the river.

The suit, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Lawrenceville, N.J. attorney Janine G. Bauer and Bristol, Pa. attorney Elizabeth Koniers Brown, claims that the actions of the defendant violate the federal Clean Water Act.

The suit claims that the club’s “discharges are impairing water quality in the Delaware River” and are interfering with the ability of recreationalists to enjoy the natural body of water.

The complaint states that the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and its members use the river, its tributaries and habitats for recreational, scientific and aesthetic purposes, including canoeing, kayaking, sightseeing, bird watching and wildlife viewing.

The suit alleges that because the gun club operates its shooting range without the proper permit under the Clean Water Act, the organization has failed to satisfy the monitoring, reporting and recordkeeping requirements that provide information to the plaintiff and its members about the types and quantities of pollutants being discharged into the river.

“Defendant’s violations of the Clean Water Act have injured and continue to injure the health, recreational, scientific, environmental and aesthetic interests of Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit states.

The gun club, which has been operational for 132 years, uses live pigeons, as opposed to clay pigeons, during its trap shoots, the suit states.

(It has been said that Pennsylvania is the only state left in the nation that allows live pigeon shoots under law).

The suit claims that because the shoots are held in skies over the Delaware River, pollutants from the discharge of firearms often make their way into the body of water.

The pollutants that arise from bullet fragments, the lawsuit claims, include lead, bismuth, tungsten, copper, steel and other metals and materials.

The shoots also result in dead pigeon carcasses and pieces of the birds being dropped into the river, the suit states.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network also contends that the shooting activities are hazardous to the safety of those who boat and otherwise recreate along the waterway due to the prospect of being injured by a falling bullet fragment.

The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment that the gun club is violating the Clean Water Act.

The group also seeks to have the club enjoined from operating its shooting range until the proper permits are obtained.

Lastly, the Riverkeeper Network seeks an order imposing civil penalties against the defendant in the amount of $32,500 per day per violation occurring before Jan. 19, 2009, and $37,500 per day per violation occurring thereafter.

The plaintiff also seeks litigation costs.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01602-JS.


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