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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Red Cliff Tribal NALEMP Manager
Frank Koehn at 218-341-8822 or email@example.com
Red Cliff Tribal NALEMP Public Relations
Melonee Montano at 715-779-3650 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.