Researchers: No Immediate Cause for Concern from Barrels
Posted at: 02/01/2013 1:27 PM
| Updated at: 02/01/2013 10:54 PM
The Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa says preliminary results from a study of decades-old barrels in Lake Superior "show no immediate cause for concern regarding the safety of water and fish consumption."
The tribe said in a press release Friday that it has completed the initial assessment of the contents of the 25 barrels recovered last summer. The Red Cliff Band worked with Duluth-based EMR, Inc., to recover randomly-selected barrels from the lake, with the original goal of recovering 70 barrels.
22 of the barrels contained ejection cup assemblies for BLU-4 cluster bomb devices, with 600 to 700 assemblies per barrel. In a change from investigations of the 1990's, explosives experts found the assemblies contained ejection charge composed of M5 propellant which was still active. Previous investigations had found the charges to be inert.
The remaining three barrels contained a composite material of incinerated metals.
The tribe says researchers limited the recovery to 25 barrels instead of the 70 originally planned because of the discovery and accumulation of the several thousand active ejection charges. The tribe and EMR consulted with federal agencies and decided to stop recovering additional barrels in order to preserve a portion of the project budget to transport and dispose of the ejection cup assemblies.
No levels of radiation above regular background levels were found in any of the barrels. Researchers collected material from within the barrels and from sediment and water near the barrels and shipped samples to a laboratory for testing and analysis, which is still underway.
The investigation is funded by the Department of Defense and the tribe under the DOD's Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation program. It is intended to determine if the barrels pose any threat to residents, tribes, fisheries, aquatic life, or the environment, with the primary goal of determining whether further investigation or removal of barrels is required.
The U.S. Army disposed of hundreds of barrels in the lake between 1959 and 1962 at dump sites between Duluth and Larsmont, about 1 to 3 miles from the North Shore. The barrels came from the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant and are believed to contain munitions parts and general production line debris.
A 2008 investigation identified 591 sites where there may potentially be a barrel or barrels. They were inspected using a submersible vehicle and found to be in varying degrees of degradation, with some exposed concrete apparently containing munitions debris.