Who should foot the bill to clean up Lake Merced?

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is Lake Merced's landlord, but decades ago it delegated the management of the lake's recreational programs to the city's Recreation and Parks Department. Now they want to take it back.

One reason is that they want to be able to negotiate with the Pacific Rod and Gun Club to clean up lead contamination. The club has leased a sizable portion of land there for decades.

Although the gun club now uses steel bullets, they used to use lead, which is cause for concern.

Steve Ritchie is assistant general manager of water for the PUC.

"We've found through investigations over time that there is contamination on the property from lead shot and clay pigeons that have been used there for decades," Ritchie said.

Members of the Committee to Save Lake Merced say if there is contamination, this is their main concern:

"Whether or not it is leaching into the water or getting into the microorganisms or the fish that are out here," committee member Dick Morten said.

All of those who spoke at the hearing supported turning over management of the lake back to the PUC.

"Joint management authority at the lake by two agencies has resulted in confused and inefficient decision making," Lake Merced Task Force spokesperson Tim Colen said.

The PUC's investigations reveal, so far, there's no danger to the water, as long as the lead shots stay embedded in the sediments of the lake, but the contamination on the vast grounds of the club are a different matter.

"These are above the levels that there might be human health risks for people coming into contact with it," Ritchie said.

The PUC estimates it'll cost $10.7 million to clean it all up. Guess who they think ought to foot the bill?

"The contamination was caused presumably by the tenant there; they're the only ones out there for decades," Ritchie said.

The PUC voted Tuesday afternoon to take back control of the property, so they will be the ones negotiating with the gun club over the costs of the cleanup.

Adding to the issue is the difference in the estimates for how much the cleanup is going to cost. The Pacific Rod and Gun Club says their estimate puts the cleanup costs at about $5 million, significantly less that the PUC's $10.7 million estimate.

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