Lake Superior mystery barrel recovery effort questioned, defendedThe effort to raise 70 Department of Defense barrels dumped in Lake Superior near Duluth continues under a news blackout.
By: By Mike Simonson/Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
The effort to raise 70 Department of Defense barrels dumped in Lake Superior near Duluth continues under a news blackout.
The weather has been good and work continues to remove barrels from three sites a few miles north of Duluth. Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe is spearheading this effort with $3.3 million in funding from the Department of Defense. This is by far the largest attempt to remove what they consider a scientific sampling of almost 1,500 drums containing ammunition parts.
In an April interview, Red Cliff Environmental Director Melonee Montano rejected the idea of daily news briefings.
“I understand the desire for that but quite honestly we need to stay focused on the work rather than informing the public,” Montano said. “We’re taking on such a high risk here. We want to make sure that we focus on the importance and the safety and all of that rather than taking our time speaking with media daily.”
But the lack of briefings only leads to more mystery surrounding these barrels, which were ordered dumped by the Department of Defense between 1958 and 1962.
John LaForge is with NukeWatch in Wisconsin. He doesn’t believe at least one underwater dump site is being overlooked because no barrels were found there in a 2008 sonar survey.
“I do believe the tribe is definitely interested in getting to the bottom of the issue. They want and have pledged to do some sediment testing, so I’m encouraged by that. Sediment testing needs to occur where the barrels have decayed away and not necessarily where you can plainly see and recover a barrel.”
Project Leader Jennifer Thiemann of EMR environmental engineering in Duluth says when the barrels are raised, they will use an independent source to examine contents. She hopes that’s enough.
“There are some conspiracy theories but yeah, it’s an independent accredited lab,” she said. “The tribe is paying for that analysis. The DoD will be provided reports but have no influence on the results of that data. We’ll also have a third party conduct data validations.”
Barrel removal is expected to finish by next week.