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.