70 mystery barrels to be lifted from Lake Superior this summerAlmost two decades after nine Department of Defense mystery barrels were recovered from Lake Superior, 10 times that number will be pulled up this summer.
By: By Mike Simonson, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Almost two decades after nine Department of Defense mystery barrels were recovered from Lake Superior, 10 times that number will be pulled up this summer.
In a statement released Monday, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa says it is working with the DoD to lift those barrels from sites between the Lester and Knife rivers along the North Shore.
Seventy is only a small fraction of the almost 1,500 barrels dumped in three sites between 1959 and 1962 by the Army Corp of Engineers under orders of the DoD. Originally, there was thought to be seven dump sites, but investigators say some areas overlap each other so there are three total known sites. But it is thought to be enough to get a scientific sampling on these 55 gallon drums, if they are contaminated or even explosive.
A report released by Red Cliff in 2006 indicates many pollutants may be in the barrels. Citing Army Corp and Honeywell Munitions records, they say chemicals ranging from PCBs, mercury, lead or even uranium may exist in the barrels.
Removing the barrels will be tricky. Because they contain ammunition parts, it’s not clear if there is any volatility left. Also, the 1960-era drums are rusty and contamination could spread if they break up as they’re being raised. Because of safety concerns, there will be a zone off-limits to the public during the recovery operation.
The recovery operation will also sample lake water and sediment next to the barrels. An independent lab separate from the Department of Defense, Spectrum Analytical of Tampa, Fla. will analyze this summer’s findings, with results expected next spring.
Although recovery will take place this summer, dates aren’t being released at this time.
The barrels will be properly disposed of once they are recovered and tested.
Environmental consulting firm EMR of Duluth surveyed the barrels in 2008 and found 591 “targets” during a 96 square mile sonar search. Each target could include one or more barrels.
Red Cliff officials weren’t immediately available for comment, but will discuss plans in interviews scheduled for later this week.