Plan to remove 60-year-old ammunition barrels from Lake Superior to be unveiledA plan to remove some of the barrels dumped into Lake Superior by the Department of Defense near Duluth is expected to be released today.
By: By Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
A plan to remove some of the barrels dumped into Lake Superior by the Department of Defense near Duluth is expected to be released today.
The Department of Defense ordered more than 1,400 barrels to be dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War years of 1959 to 1962. They wanted to keep their secret ammunition parts from getting into Soviet hands. The 55 gallon drums contain scrap from the Honeywell Twin Cities Munitions Plant and were dispersed from Army Corp of Engineer boats in seven known dump sites four miles from the Duluth harbor.
For years, this project was kept a secret. But the Army Corp kept records of the barrels, leading to two efforts to recover nine barrels in the 1990s.
Funding ran out, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency dismissed the barrels as no threat to Lake Superior, and the efforts stopped. Until 2004.
Enter the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and the Department of Defense. The DoD and tribe signed an agreement to investigate the barrels. Red Cliff released a report in 2006 after examining Army Corp documents and concluded the barrels are rusted and may be leaking several kinds of dangerous chemicals, including PCBs, mercury, lead, possibly even uranium. But removing 60 year-old rusty barrels that may contain explosives and chemicals is a tricky business. Monday, the Red Cliff will release its plan on how it will proceed this summer. A plan released in 2009 had said they would remove 70 barrels and test water and sediment around the dump sites.
Western Lake Superior is part of the ceded territory allowing tribes to use and protect it as sovereign governments.