could help Indiana beach
By Kathy Ceperich
Itís no great mystery that the water in the Great Marsh
is cleaner than other neighboring waters, environmentalists
Itís been known for years that wetlands and marshes help
to clean water naturally before the water makes its way
via gravity to its destination following the lowest areas
to the lowest point which many times is Lake Michigan.
However, scientists are hoping to take advantage of the
natural process to prevent beach closings.
"The cleanest water in this park comes out of the
Great Marsh," said property manager Ted Bohman of
the Indiana Dunes State Park.
The area is a naturally occurring wetland that was not
ditched as the early developers dug ditches to drain the
area so they could build on the land and cultivate the
soil for harvesting.
The ditches short-circuit the water from the treatment
benefits of being spread out over large areas where the
proper conditions of light, plants and soil filtering
take out some unwanted contaminants, such as E. coli,
before the water reaches Lake Michigan.
In a few weeks, work will be complete on a man-made one-acre
wetland at the state park, a part of the Dunes Creek watershed.
The constructed wetland will give scientists insight
about the dynamics of how wetlands work and may serve
as a prototype for building additional wetlands.
Scientist Richard Whitman of the U.S. Geological Survey
said this is the first time such a construction and research
project is being undertaken in Indiana for non-point sources
and with plans to model the flows for study.
Scientists have already been taking background samples
for the study and have found average E. coli readings
of zero to 500 parts per million with some much higher
spike readings. Whitmanís studies also demonstrate that
E. coli can survive months in the soil before being washed
out to the lake.
Indiana State Parks North Region supervisor Terry Coleman
said the selected construction site presented the least
risk to rare species of plants found in the park and the
area already had standing water.
The project is unique because unlike other constructed
wetlands, this one is being built on sandy instead of
more clay-like soils. They plan to keep the water level
shallow, 18-inches or less.
"We want this to be as natural as possible,"
The project was funded by a Great Lakes Coastal Restoration
grant for $100,000 with the state matching $25,000.
The project and studies are funded through September
2005 when Save the Dunes Conservation Fund, through another
federal grant, will continue the research studies.
SDCF is currently working on a management plan for the
Dunes Creek watershed through Project Manager Christine
Livingston added, "I think itís an important step
in determining what will help solve the E.coli problem.
I think it has a lot of potential. Wetlands are so important
to water quality," she said.