Barrels, Bullets, and Buckshot - The story of Barrels, Crates, and Boxes tossed in our Lake…

"If, as the elders have told us, we are our grandparent’s dream, then we must begin today dreaming of our grandchildren.”                                                                       Walt Bresette 1948-1999                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (25) Quote from: “A Declaration for the Great Lakes

1. Barrels, Bullets, Buckshot, and much more has been tossed in Lake Superior over the years. Paper mill sludge, municipal waste and run off, taconite tailings as well as the barrels (and some crates). contained waste materials from the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, located near Minneapolis, MN.[1] The number of barrels is estimated somewhere between 1400 and 1500 [2] (31) (32) and according the records all but six of these barrels originated from the TCAAP building 502.  These six barrels came for the Honeywell Plant in Hastings MN.  A Disposition form prepared in 1959 describes Building 502 as a Chemical Analytical Laboratory.  This memo was written “to acquaint all concerned with the new equipment being used  and to ascertain if any approvals or certifications of processes will be required.(4)  

 2.   At present, the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has received funding from a Department of Defense program designed to assist tribal units of government to address military waste on tribal territories.  Red Cliff Tribal Council’s involvement began because of correspondence from the Depart of the Navy. (5) (6)   The intent of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) and the Indian Head Division Office (IHDO) (8) teams was to complete the following:

a. gain (Tribal) confidence by respecting the legal status as a sovereign nation; understanding by listening to you and your people about any possible environmental impacts; 

c. work together to help train and mentor your environmental staff, if needed; and 

d. work together to verify the impacted area and report all information accurately to the Department of Defense for possible remediation of the area.(9)

     In response to Navy’s invitation Red Cliff Tribal Council formed a NALEMP Committee. This committee consists of community members and serves as the liaison between and amongst the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACORE), Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) the Department of Defense, and has a resource for the Tribal Council.  Community input at these meetings is encouraged and meetings are open to the public. Since the late 1990’s, Red  Cliff has negotiated a series of Cooperative Agreements (CAs) with DoD in an attempts to learn what is in these barrels and remove them from the Lake when this is the best option. (DoD  administers their part of NALEMP through the ACORE).  DoD, at the direction of Congress of the United States, provides the funding for NALEMP projects. To implement each CA, a Specific Project Implementation Plan (SPIP) is written and agreed to by the Tribe and the USACOE.  The SPIP then becomes the guiding document for the work that is to done that to meet the requirements and deadlines addressed in the SPIP.  So far, there have been ________________  and currently CA ____ in process. All these CAs have been completed and paper work is up-to-date. This latest attempt to shut this project down on a technicality and/or mis-representation of the facts is unjustified. Seems that all efforts to bring this project to an end are thwarted by the Government and their military. To pull up more barrels it certainly will helpful to find them and let research help s target barrels in specific areas and depths. Consideration must be given to the barrels that are the heaviest and that have deposited in the deepest areas.(32) 

3. Over the years this project has seen robust interest. Governors and officials from three states (10), (12), (13) and at the federal level at three members of Congress has expressed alarm and dismay at the descisons that allowed Lake Superior to used as a military waste. Communication between and amongst NALEMP staff and federal and state agencies has at times been hampered by government shut downs, forced furloughs, staff changes, and more demands placed on current funding. On the local level communities, counties, and cities have expressed concern at various times over the years.  The July 8,1977 Final Report on Classified Scrap in Lake Superior  (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) prepared by the U.S. Army Armament Materiel Readiness Command Rock Island, Illinois elicited this response from MPC’s Executive Director and MPCA Board. Their concerns included the “absence of pre-search planning, the use of low quality search gear, and the failure of Department of the Army to consult with the state agencies”. MPCA concerns were “heightened by the fact that the barrels were dumped in Lake superior in the proximity of the Duluth water intake.” (22) (23) (24) 

 4.  Researching records is always a bit tricky. Some records are incomplete, classified, or conflicting. Sometimes they appear to be random notes that pertained to the issues and these may be not be dated and nameless. These “notes” survived many years; languishing in storage or going through or reviewed and moved about. Once an issue is raised they become the backbone of current knowledge and without careful investigation, they may well become the basis for agency policy. An example is the “ Final Report on Lake Superior Scrap.”Folks in Rock Island must have liked it and closer to home the MPCA , at this time, was not impressed. Elected officials, state agencies, media, and the public’s concern does not ever seem to completely wash away from the social landscape. 

5. The lingering discussion of radio active waste is one of the “ sticky wickets”. Referenced in the 1991 Report of Findings (26), kept alive on You Tube (27), and in an occasional article in local media. (28) The recently surfaced MPCA 1991 “Information Transmittal Slip” (29) accompanied by an Internal Memorandum (30) describing how “rad”  was packaged in 55 gallon barrels complete with the cement and then turned over to the Coast Guard for deposition in Lake Superior. This packaging in barrels with the use of cement is consistent with the barrels that have been recovered that were transported North by the DoD and dumped in the Lake. Might this the offending barrel that tripped the sensors? Accompanied by reports purple liquid that is also used to mitigate the effects of radioactivity exposure to the environment (11). In addition, it is now known that one of the barrels was painted with thorium based paint ( ). Researching documents have produced enough evidence to receive support from Senator Franken, (DMN), Governor Mark Dayton (DMN), Senator Tammy Baldwi

The response Us Coast Guard provides a clue as to how the the government agencies react to any reposes that hat deals withe r” word - radioactive. If nothing else whenever the goverment agencies respond to events 

6.    One would have expect DoD to have kept meticulous and accurate records regarding barrels stored in TCAAP (Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant) (1), located near Minneapolis. At a very minimum the a “chain of custody” tracking the movement of the barrels from building 502 and the six barrels that are thought to have been added to the mix, from the Honeywell’s Hastings MN facility, should be easily found and readily available. To date records searches and requests have not produced this elusive “chain of custody”. What has been found are lists of steel and paper barrels and steel tubes that were transferred from TCAAP. (35) This is a 

     These records reference “Die Cast - Confidential Scrap” and “Honeywell Memorandum dated September September 16th,1960. Please note that the date is two years before the 1962 date which is the last reported shipment from TCAAP to Duluth. An affidavit from 1976 adds to the confusion. The writer suggests that this is the only shipment to Duluth he witnessed and  states; “ I would have known about any and all shipment to Duluth, during my tour of duty.” This writer also explains he was given no warnings nor was he cautioned about special handling procedures of health hazards. (33) An article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (34) suggest that “quite few runs” were made from the Twin Cities to Duluth. In addition describes the in some detail the transport, the convoys of three to four trucks. no concerns about hazardous materials, and that the operations were observed by one or two men in civilian clothing thought to be Honeywell employees. The article also suggests that once the dumping in Lake Superior was discontinued in 1962, the TCAAP drums were delivered to the US Steel Plant and melted down. A Fr request to review these trucking or possible rail records was sent to the Freedom of Information Office - Omaha District on August 17, 2016.(36)


Governments all share the responsibility to protect the water. Documents, studies, and research is all readily available on line (26)