LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse is using an EPA grant to continue studying lead content in the La Crosse River marsh in Myrick Park.
Initial studies by UW-L researchers uncovered high levels of lead in the soil of the marsh over a year ago.
Professors and students will use the $60,000 grant to continue the research and to determine the full ecological impact of the lead content.
The contamination has been linked to lead shot from La Crosse Gun Club trapshooting competitions between 1932 and 1963. Those shots sank into the sediment and polluted the marsh over the course of decades.
"We want to know the integrity of the marsh hasn't been compromised as a result of this potential contaminate that could be getting into the ecosystem," said Colin Belby, a professor of geography and earth science.
The professor added that people shouldn't be too concerned about the contamination directly impacting them, unless they eat fish from the marsh. The lead primarily affects organisms in the aquatic ecosystem, like fish and water fowl.
The research team is composed of students and four professors--a joint effort between the environmental science and biology departments.
Students used instruments to measure the topography of the marsh to determine what areas lead is most prevalent in sediment, as well as how it's distributed.
"It was very mucky on the shoreline. We got a little bit deeper, and the muck receded a little bit so it was easier to move." said Senior Geography Major Cody Mertens. "We had a couple encounters with fish which was interesting, but overall it was pretty fun to get out and do some field work outside of the lab.
Mertens wants to get into the field of environmental studies. He believes learning about one's surroundings helps people to understand the world better.
"I'd like to figure out not only if it's a problem, but just to add more information to our base of knowledge for this area or for areas around," Mertens said. "It doesn't always need to be for environmental protection, but just for further research and a better understanding of the surrounding environment."
The EPA grant supports community education about the marsh through the Myrick-Hixon Eco Park.
The Wisconsin DNR and the City of La Crosse also collaborated on the project.
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