Federal government stops funding removal of munitions barrels from Lake Superior
Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio
The federal government has stopped funding the removal of Department of Defense barrels from Lake Superior.
More than 1,400 drums were dumped into Lake Superior between 1958 and 1962 to keep munitions parts a secret from the Soviet Union. The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe has been working with the Department of Defense to find out if these barrels are toxic. Of 25 barrels that were removed in 2012, 22 contain small detonators which are still explosive. Other tests found no other contamination, but Red Cliff officials want more barrels taken up for testing.
Now, Red Cliff says the funding to continue this has been stopped by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Defense. Red Cliff said this happened without consulting them, and that negotiations between the tribe and the federal government are now at a standstill.
Red Cliff said they're not giving up. They say 25 barrels isn't a representative sample of the munitions barrels, and it's not beyond a reasonable doubt that Lake Superior water isn't or won't be contaminated. Another concern is that many of the 55-gallon drums are now rusty and deteriorating.
Since Lake Superior is in the ceded territory of Ojibwe tribes, they say it is their mission to make sure the barrels aren't a danger to water quality. They say since the Department of Defense dumped the barrels into the lake, it's their responsibility to either remove them or show that the remaining 1,400 drums aren't an environmental threat.
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