Barrel Over-pack Retrieval of September 2013 Update

For Immediate Release: January 21st, 2014
Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa
Lake Superior Barrels Project
Barrel Over-pack Retrieval of September 2013
For further information please contact:
Gary Defoe Jr. at 715-779-3650 or gary.defoejr@redcliff-nsn.gov
Red Cliff Tribal NALEMP Manager
Frank Koehn at 218-341-8822 or frankjkoehn@gmail.com
Red Cliff Tribal NALEMP Public Relations
Melonee Montano at 715-779-3650 or melonee.montano@redcliff-nsn.gov
Red Cliff Tribal Environmental Programs Manager

Since the mid- 1990’s the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has been researching and conducting investigations on approximately 1,437, 55-gallon barrels dumped into Lake Superior by the US Army between 1959 and 1962, with the assistance of our contractor EMR, Inc. It has been and will continue to be the mission of the Red Cliff Band to fully characterize the type and extent of Department of Defense (DoD) wastes, which may have potential impacts on the economy, natural resources, and cultural uses within Chippewa Ceded Territory and to determine if further remedial work is required to preserve the rich natural resources of Lake Superior.
The Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP) was established in 1993 to address tribal concerns in DoD environmental cleanup programs. Since 1993 Congress has inserted a provision in the DoD Appropriations Act requiring the DoD to devote funds annually to mitigate environmental impacts to Indian lands. The Red Cliff NALEMP Committee is committed to the restoration and protection of natural resources within the Ceded Territory, and dedicated to working with federal agencies to clean up, restore, and protect the ecosystems of the Ceded Territory. We are also committed to ensuring that the US Government follows through with their Federal Trust Responsibilities associated with the lands and waters within the Ceded Territory. Our goal is to allow for the full use and enjoyment of these protected resources and fragile ecological conditions necessary to support these unique communities, without restriction due to contamination.
The Lake Superior Barrels Project is known as being both unique and groundbreaking for a number of reasons, two of which include the following:
• This is the first NALEMP project located within Ceded Territory in which the Lake Superior Chippewa Bands maintain Treaty Rights.
• This is the first project to be located within such a large body of water that is part of a vast transportation system. Lake Superior is one of five Great Lakes, which is the largest fresh surface water system on Earth.
The road to researching and investigating the Lake Superior Barrels Project has been long and extremely challenging. Throughout the years; progress on this project has been hampered by the requirements of multiple agencies, collaboration between these agencies, seasonal variations and challenging weather conditions on Lake Superior, attempts to coordinate field activities with each agency, and unexpected regulatory challenges. The following is a summary of the most recent efforts undertaken.
Between July 30 and August 13, 2012, a total of 25 barrels were recovered from the waters of Lake Superior. The barrels were found to contain two distinct types of contents: a composite material consisting of incinerated metals, and intact munitions parts. Three of the recovered barrels contained the former, while 22 were found to contain the hazardous munitions parts. All of the munitions parts recovered from these 22 were identified as ejection cup assemblies for BLU-4 cluster bomb devises. Explosives experts on site conducted tests on the ejection cup assemblies and identified an active ejection charge composed of M5 propellant. Each of the 22 barrels contained between 600 and 700 ejection cup assemblies. The Department of Transportation (DOT) classified these ejection cup assemblies as explosive devices. As a result, additional permits were required before the ejection cup assemblies could be transported.
Until additional permits could be obtained, the ejection cup assemblies recovered in 2012 were securely placed in (6) sealed 85 gallon over-pack barrels, loaded into steel baskets, marked for future retrieval, and carefully placed back down to the bottom of Lake Superior. Efforts to meet the requirements and secure the proper permits to remove barrels took the entire following winter and spring of 2013. The logistical challenges of paperwork, forms, government furloughs, coordinating multiple federal agencies, and securing the barge and equipment were time consuming and expensive. The Red Cliff Tribe and Tribal NALEMP Committee all worked with the U.S. Army Environmental Command (USAEC), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), DoD, Minnesota Department of Transportation (MN DOT), Minnesota Pollution Control (MPCA) agencies, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Coast Guard (USCG), as well as the Tribe’s contractor EMR Inc., and subcontractor Veolia to resolve these issues and to ensure the retrieval was conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.
In September of 2013, the non-hazardous materials recovered in August of 2012 (barrel remnants, concrete, and incinerated materials) which had been stored at Durocher Marine in Cheboygan, Michigan, were then transported by truck for disposal to the Veolia Environmental facility located in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the six over-pack barrels containing the explosives which had been placed back in the water for wet storage last summer, was also retrieved from the lakebed. The contents of these over-packs were transferred into lined salvage barrels which included the ejector cups and all water contained within the barrel. The barge then returned to the Duluth Timber Company dock, which had been established as a secure staging area for transferring the barrels from the barge to a waiting transport truck. Lastly, the barrels were loaded on to a truck for transport to the Veolia Environmental disposal facility located in Sauget, Illinois.
The NALEMP Committee is now reviewing the drafts of the Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) and Screening Level Ecological Risk Assessment (SLERA), along with the draft Feasibility Study (FS) prepared by EMR. Once the various Investigation Reports (formerly Remedial Investigations) are finalized, the Final Results & Summary Report (formerly Record of Decision) will be prepared, with plans to be finalized in August of 2014. Concerns about the future degradation of remaining barrels, the need for testing a greater number of barrels, and safety will be addressed. Additionally, the NALEMP Committee and Red Cliff Tribe remains committed to continuing with the Barrel Recovery project as necessary and intend to continue to focus on protection of the sacred waters of Lake Superior.

Lake Superior Barrels Project in the News

This blog post is in response to recent stories in the media regarding the Lake Superior Barrels Project and regulatory compliance. Red Cliff would like to assure the public that regulatory compliance is a major component of this project. The project involves multiple agencies and regulatory requirements and compliance efforts are ongoing. Federal and State agencies have been privy to this project for several years and consultation with regulatory agencies such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Environmental Protection Agency began in 2010. Red Cliff has and will continue to ensure that the Lake Superior Barrels project is in compliance with all applicable regulations.

As always, Red Cliff would like to thank the public for their interest and support. Red Cliff is dedicated to ensuring that the beauty of Lake Superior and the quality of the water and fish are maintained for the future generations of all those who make this place our home.

Upcoming Press Conference

Red Cliff is in the process of scheduling a press conference to answer questions about the Lake Superior Barrels Project field work. If you would like to be considered for attendance, please submit a request via email to Melonee Montano at melonee.montano@redcliff-nsn.gov. Please include your name, contact information, affiliation, and the number of people you would like in attendance. Those who receive invitations will be notified of the date, time, and location, and asked to submit a list of questions in advance of the event. 

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Lake Superior Barrels Field Work

For Immediate Release: February 1st, 2013

For further information please contact:
Frank Koehn at 218-341-8822 or frankjkoehn@gmail.com ; Red Cliff Tribal NALEMP Public Relations
Melonee Montano at 715-779-3650 or melonee.montano@redcliff-nsn.gov ; Red Cliff Tribal Environmental Programs Manager

Preliminary data results show no immediate cause for concern regarding the safety of water and fish consumption and citizens of the region should continue to follow existing guidelines for Lake Superior.

The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa (Red Cliff Tribe) has completed initial field work and assessment on the content of barrels recovered from Lake Superior. Through guidance by the Red Cliff Tribal Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program Committee (NALEMP Committee), the Red Cliff Tribe and their contractor (EMR of Duluth, MN) conducted this fieldwork. This on-going project is taking place in several steps, spanning multiple years, and beginning in 2004 with the identification of the Lake Superior Barrel dumpsite as an area of potential human health and environmental concern and the subsequent application by the Red Cliff Tribe for funding through the Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP).

NALEMP is a program created for the specific purpose of aiding Tribes in addressing the effects of past military operations on Native American Lands. In 2006, the Red Cliff Tribe entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) through NALEMP, which is funded by the Department of Defense (DoD), to investigate the barrels. Oversight for the project is provided by the USACE-Omaha District, the Red Cliff Tribal Council, the Red Cliff Environmental Programs Manager, and the Tribal NALEMP Committee. The NALEMP Committee is composed of a group of Red Cliff Tribal members who volunteer their time to oversee the project for the Red Cliff Tribe. In 2007, the Red Cliff Tribe contracted EMR to complete a Work Plan Set, consisting of the Field Sampling Plan (FSP), Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) and Site Safety and Health Plan (SSHP), for a geophysical survey to map barrel locations. In 2008 the Tribe contracted EMR to update and implement the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). Field sampling for the RI/FS phase was originally scheduled for 2009, but was rescheduled for 2012 due to the lack of funding and additional regulatory requirements.

The Lake Superior Barrels Project is known as being both unique and ground-breaking. It is the first NALEMP funded project located within Ceded Territory in which the Lake Superior Chippewa Bands maintain Treaty Rights. It is the first project to be located within a large body of water that is part of a vast transportation system. Lake Superior is one of five Great Lakes in which through their connecting channels, they form the largest fresh surface water system on earth. These factors presented a number of challenges and regulatory requirements that have never been encountered before in a NALEMP funded project. These challenges have involved extensive consultation with many federal and state agencies, including DoD, USACE, U.S. Army Environmental Command (USAEC), the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

A total of 25 barrels were recovered during the barrel recovery fieldwork between July 30, 2012 and August 13, 2012. Two types of contents were discovered within the barrels; a composite material of incinerated metals was found in three of the barrels and munitions parts were found in the remaining 22. All of the munitions parts recovered from these barrels were identified as ejection cup assemblies for BLU-4 cluster bomb devises. Explosives experts on board conducted tests in the ejection cup assemblies and identified an active ejection charge composed of M5 propellant. Each of the 22 barrels contained between 600 and 700 ejection cup assemblies. Similar barrel contents were recovered during investigations during the 1990s. These investigations had determined that the charges within the ejection cup assemblies were inert; therefore the discovery of active charges was unanticipated. Preliminary data results show no immediate cause for concern regarding the safety of water and fish consumption and citizens of the region should continue to follow existing guidelines for Lake Superior.

Although the goal of the fieldwork was to recover 70 barrels, the recovery team faced several challenges upon the discovery of and accumulation of several thousand active ejection charges. The primary concern was the safety of the team combined with the logistical concerns regarding the transport and disposal of explosive materials. After the recovery of 25 barrels, the Red Cliff Tribe and EMR, in consultation with federal agencies, made the decision to stop the recovery of additional barrels in order to reserve a portion of the project budget for the transport and disposal of the ejection cup assemblies. All recovered materials are securely stored while regulatory compliance details are arranged.

A variety of analytical testing was performed on samples taken from within the recovered barrels and from sediment and water outside of the barrel before they were recovered. Radiation testing was conducted immediately after each recovered barrel reached the surface of the water. No levels of radiation above background were detected at any point during the fieldwork. All samples were shipped to an independent, accredited laboratory and tested for a wide range of chemical constituents, including Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) metals, VOCs, PCBs, PAHs, and asbestos. All of the analytical testing has been completed and analysis is ongoing. Work will continue on this project through the spring and summer.  The analytical results will be used to determine if the barrel contents pose any potential threat to area residents, tribes, fisheries, aquatic life, or the environment. The primary goal is to determine if further investigation or remediation is required. Results will be summarized in a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) compliant Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study reports, which are expected to be complete in 2013.

The mission of the Red Cliff Tribe to fully characterize the type and extent of military wastes, which may have impacts on human health, the economy, natural resources, and cultural uses within Chippewa Ceded Territory and to determine if further remedial work is required to preserve the rich natural resources of Lake Superior. Further, the Red Cliff Tribe is committed to the protection and restoration of natural resources in the Ceded Territory, and is dedicated to working with federal agencies to clean up, restore, and protect the ecosystems of the Ceded Territory. The Red Cliff Tribe is also committed to ensuring that the US Government meets their Federal Trust responsibilities associated with the lands and waters of the Ceded Territories. Our goal is to allow for the full use of and enjoyment of the protected resources and ecological conditions of our region, without restriction due to contamination. 

The Red Cliff Tribe will be hosting a closed press conference (invite only) in the near future.  

TRIBAL MEDIA RELEASE SOON TO COME!!

Please be sure to check our blog during this next week for our Tribal media release. The media release is in its’ final stages and we are simply awaiting the approval from our Tribal leaders to release it . It is our intent to provide the overall public with information surrounding our field work which occurred July – August of 2012. Please check back often until then!

Barrel Recovery Fieldwork Complete

We have completed the 2012 Barrel Recovery Fieldwork. We are happy to relay that the work was both productive and safe. We greatly appreciate the public’s respect of the safety zone during operations.  We also appreciate your patience thus far.  No official results will be available at this time. There is a process we are going through to determine exactly what we found and another process to assess the risks, if any, that are associated with what we found. It’s not our policy to speculate on what the analytical data may tell us before the facts are in. We are still a few weeks away from seeing our first lab data. We are all anxious to see the results, but we have to let the process take its course. Thanks to all for your support!

Barrel Recovery Progress

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The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is recovering and sampling barrels containing military wastes in Lake Superior. It is the first time the contents of the “Lake Superior Barrels” have been seen and sampled since the 1990’s. Despite minor weather and operating delays, the project is proceeding safely and sediment, lake water, and barrel contents are being sampled daily and shipped for laboratory analysis. Laboratory results should be complete within a few weeks, and Red Cliff hopes to release some preliminary data and results in late 2012. Whether or not the contents of the barrels pose a risk to human health or the environment will take several months to determine. Although Red Cliff is conducting radiation monitoring, no radiation levels above background radiation have been detected to date.

Historic records indicate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dumped nearly 1500 barrels containing munitions scraps and other waste from the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant between 1958-1962 in the western arm of Lake Superior. The most comprehensive survey of the barrels was completed by Red Cliff in 2008, which found 591 “high probability targets”, with a target representing one or more barrel. The 2008 survey was conducted between Duluth and Knife Island, Minnesota, and the high probability targets were all found approximately 0.5-2.5 miles offshore between Brighton Beach and Stony Point.