Barrels to be Removed From Lake Superior
In Summer, 2012, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (Red Cliff Tribe) plans to conduct the next portion of field work of the Lake Superior Barrels investigation.Field work, originally planned for 2010, was delayed due to funding and technical issues. The Red Cliff Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP) Committee, Red Cliff Environmental Staff and contractor, EMR, Inc. of Duluth, MN have spent the last two years working on planning documents necessary for barrel retrieval and environmental sampling. The investigation is funded by a cooperative agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and Red Cliff Tribe under DoD’s Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation (NALEMP) program.
Work planned for Summer 2012 includes recovering, sampling, and properly disposing of 70 randomly selected barrels that were disposed of in Lake Superior by the US Army between 1959 and 1962. The barrels are from the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant and contain munitions parts and general production line debris.
Results of the this investigation 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 Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study reports, which are expected to be complete in Spring 2013.
In 2008, environmental consulting firm EMR, Inc. used side scan and sector scan sonar technology to conduct a geophysical survey of suspected barrel locations. The surveys were conducted using the Large Lakes Observatory’s (LLO) research vessel, Blue Heron, along with staff from the LLO based at the University of Minnesota, Duluth and representatives from Red Cliff.
A total of 591 potential targets (“targets” may include more than one barrel) were identified within an area that appears to be limited to 96 square miles of western Lake Superior, generally 1-3 miles offshore along the Minnesota coast between Duluth and Knife River. Targets believed to be barrels were inspected using a submersible vehicle and their locations were recorded by GPS. The barrels were observed to be in varying degrees of degradation, some with noticeable rust and exposed internal concrete. Objects believed to be munitions debris were observed within the concrete.
In conjunction with 2012 barrel recovery and sampling operations, lake water and sediment samples will be collected from around the barrels to determine if any contaminants may have leaked into the environment. Background contamination from other sources will be assessed by collecting water and sediment samples outside the immediate project area. Samples will be analyzed by an independent, accredited laboratory for a wide range of chemical constituents. Analytical data will be used to conduct human health and ecological risk modeling.
It is the mission of the Red Cliff Band to fully characterize the type and extent of Department of Defense (DoD) wastes, which have 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.
Further, the Red Cliff Band is committed to the restoration and protection of natural resources within 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 Band is also committed to ensuring that the US Government meet their Federal Trust Responsibilities associated with the lands and waters of the ceded territories. Their goal is to allow for the full use and enjoyment of the protected resources and ecological conditions supportive thereof, without restriction due to contamination.
For more information, please visit the Red Cliff Environmental Department website at: http://redcliff-nsn.gov/divisions/NaturalResources/EPA/epa.htm