Eight former employees of a Bellevue gun range have filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court claiming they were fired for blowing the whistle about lead contamination in the workplace.
In September, the workers at Wade's Eastside Guns and Bellevue Indoor Range were tasked with excavating large amounts of dirt used as a backstop in the firing range. The dirt was filled with years of spent bullets, which contaminated the material with lead.
The range safety employees were required to do the work for a large remodel project.
"We are just range guys," said former supervisor Andres Martinez. "We are not trained to excavate tons of dirt and sift through lead."
Weeks after the project began, workers began complaining of body aches and insomnia, they claim were symptoms of lead exposure.
According to medical records, several workers were found to have elevated blood lead levels.
"We had no training or warning about the risks," said Matt Olson, also a former employee.
Owner Wade Gaughran says the workers were given proper training and proper safety equipment but chose not to use it correctly. He also says seven workers were laid off because work was sparse after the range closed for construction. He says it had nothing to do with reporting lead contamination.
"It's an issue we've run into before on projects like these," said Gaughran. "You tell them how to do these project, you teach them, then you turn around and their mask is around their neck."
The Washington Department of Labor of Industries has an open investigation into health and safety concerns at the range. The King County Department of Health is also investigating whether any members of the public have been exposed to high levels of lead at the range, which is now reopened.