The mystery of Lake Superior's explosive barrels: Will it ever be solved?
by Mike Simonson
Wisconsin Public Radio
SUPERIOR - A study on the Department of Defense barrels found at the bottom of Lake Superior will be released in six months, and will hopefully resolve some of the discovery’s mystery — assuming that the Department of Defense continues to fund exhumation efforts.
Like a Hitchcock thriller, the Department of Defense barrels dumped during the Cold War years reached new peaks of mystery in 2012. Nine barrels exhumed in 1990 and 1994 showed low levels of contaminants from top secret grenade parts, but nothing explosive. That changed when 25 barrels were raised last summer by the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe.
Project Manager Julie Molina says about 15,000 flash drive-sized active cluster bomb detonators were inside 22 of those barrels.
“If it went off in your hand it could do serious damage up to perhaps taking off the hand. But the larger concern was if one were to go off and it was in proximity to others, it would cause a chain reaction.”
Because of federal regulations, the detonators were returned to Lake Superior’s bottom until they can be safely removed this summer. But will the other 1400-plus barrels be dredged up? Molina says that depends.
“If moving the barrels would cause greater ecological damage than leaving them in place, it’s going to examine both sides of those issues to determine what would be the best in terms
Red Cliff Tribal Elder Leo LaFernier says they want this mystery solved. But that may not be up to them.
“Whether all 1,400 barrels are to be retrieved, if the Department [of Defense] is going to fund? Right now we don’t know.”
So far, the DoD has paid Red Cliff $3.3 million to locate, remove and study the barrels.