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Great Lakes Article:

Tribe to begin removing barrels from Lake Superior near Duluth
Wisconsin Public Radio
Mike Simonson
May 1, 2009

The Red Cliff Band of Chippewa will begin removing rusty, half-century- old Department of Defense barrels from Lake Superior near Duluth this summer.

The Red Cliff Band of Chippewa will begin removing rusty, half-century- old Department of Defense barrels from Lake Superior near Duluth this summer.

A report released today says a scan of Lake Superior’s bottom found 591 targets that are probably munitions barrels dumped during the Cold War.

The Red Cliff Band has been investigating the dumping of more than 1,400 barrels a few miles from the Duluth harbor for five years. Now, they’ve signed their largest contract with the Department of Defense -- $1.2 million over the next two years -- to remove about 70 of those barrels and examine the contents to see if they pose a danger to the fish habitat and drinking water of Lake Superior.

This report is the culmination of last year’s lake bottom sonar and camera survey of 96 square miles. It found nearly 600 likely barrels in varying states of rust. Pictures show concrete mixed with what’s being called “munitions debris”...scrap from a 1950’s secret grenade project that the United States wanted to keep secret from the Soviet Union.

For decades, environmental groups have speculated that there is more than concrete and metal in the 60 gallon drums. Now, through a DOD program that pays to clean up ammo dumps on reservations and ceded Indian territories, investigators hope to have answers later this summer.

In addition, the investigation of Lake Superior’s bottom off the Duluth Harbor has found three sites where barrels were dumped 50 years ago by the Department of Defense.

This sonar and camera grid scan last summer and fall found 591 likely barrels off Lester River, the Sucker River, and Talmadge River, but did not find barrels in four other expected locations off Knife River, French River, Shoreview Road and Knife Island sites. The investigation by EMR engineering of Duluth and commissioned by the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa has not completely eliminated those areas as likely barrel dump sites; the barrels could be outside the 96 square mile sonar grid.

The Red Cliff Band may go beyond removing and testing barrels. It is also asking for another $365,000 to do a toxicology study on the Lake Superior sediment to see if it has been contaminated by the barrels. The report states: “This is considered key to determining the potential threat the contents of the barrels may pose to area residents, aquatic life and the environment and whether or not preservation of the rich resources cherished by all who share the splendor of Lake Superior warrants further remedial efforts.”


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