A project to remove half-century old Department of Defense barrels from the bottom of Lake Superior will resume this summer near Duluth. The goal: Recovering six containers with 15,000 live explosive detonators.
Last summer the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa supervised the removal of 25 Department of Defense barrels that were secretly dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War years, around 1960. In all, almost 1500 55-gallon drums were rolled off barges into the Lake. But last summer's removal crews ran into trouble almost immediately: 22 of the 25 barrels recovered contained 600 to 700 live detonators, each with the explosive power to take off a person's hand. The barrel contents were so hot that the 15,000 detonators were placed in six larger containers and dropped back into Lake Superior.
Red Cliff says they will remove those six drums this summer. As for the remaining 1400-plus barrels, Red Cliff Environmental Director Melonee Montano says they'll have to stay on the lake bottom. The $3.3 million in barrel clean-up funding from the Department of Defense has run out. So either more grants are given to Red Cliff later this year, or the mystery barrels stay where they are.