The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is working to remove Department of Defense barrels on the bottom of Lake Superior. The sticking point: They found 15,000 active explosives in 22 of the 25 barrels they raised.
The tribe removed 25 DoD barrels last August. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers dumped nearly 1,500 barrels into Lake Superior during the Cold War. The Red Cliff Band and contractor EMR of Duluth found live explosives in 22 of the 25 barrels during its search. Each barrel held 600 to 700 detonators used in cluster bombs. EMR's Julie Molina says the detonators have the power to take off a person's hand.
"The larger concern was that they are capable of sympathetic reaction, and, if one were to go off in proximity of others, it would cause a chain reaction."
Federal regulations prevented bringing the active explosives ashore, so Molina says they were returned to the lake bottom in six containers for retrieval this summer. Molina says no hazardous waste was found in the remaining contents and EMR plans to release their findings in September.
"That will be a complete report that summarizes all of the analytical data that was taken, as well as taking a look at what the potential risks are to the environment or human health and looking at the feasibility of removing them against leaving them in place."
Red Cliff Tribal Chairwoman Rose Soulier says another factor in removal is that the tribe can't afford to recover them without federal funding.
"It's not our obligation really to do that, but we feel dedicated to do that — dedicated to the cause of seeing what's in those barrels, seeing if it's harmful to our lake, to the environment, to our wildlife and just to us and people who recreate in the lake."
The Red Cliff Band has spent up to $3.3 million of DoD money on recovery efforts so far.