Earlham scientists collaborate with city to assess risks of local dam removal

The Earlham research team collects a sediment core at the Weir Dam.

Breaching Richmond’s Weir Dam should not release significant contamination into the Whitewater River, 根据厄尔汉姆学院研究人员的一项新研究.

A team from Earlham’s Earth and Environmental Science Department collaborated with the City of Richmond Sanitary District on a pre-dam removal study to determine if there are potentially harmful levels of contamination present in the sediment trapped behind the Weir Dam. The City of Richmond recently received grants from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and U.S. 鱼类和野生动物管理局移除大坝. 

使用高科技卫星导航设备, Earlham students and faculty surveyed the river channel up and downstream of the century-old dam. The team also collected sediment cores to characterize the amount and nature of the material accumulated behind the dam.  Sediment samples analyzed by an independent lab contained trace amounts of metals and hydrocarbons, 但没有检测到杀虫剂或多氯联苯.

“The sediment accumulated behind the dam is a record of the industrial history of the Whitewater Gorge,安迪·摩尔说, 球客体育app下载大学地球与环境科学教授. “虽然球客体育app不能保证没有任何污染, the concentrations measured were much lower than any of us anticipated.”

摩尔和香农·海斯, an Indiana licensed professional geologist and geology curator at Earlham, began the project last summer with students Garris Radloff, 阿米莉亚·理查森和凯瑟琳·刘. Their work was part of Earlham’s Summer Collaborative 研究 program and funded by an anonymous donor, the 球客体育app Stephen and Sylvia Tregidga Burges Endowed 研究 Fund and the Borman Family Foundation.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Earlham students to gain experience working on real-world problems while providing a valuable service to the city,”海斯说.

“Our goals were to assess the levels of contamination stored behind the dam and provide baseline data to assess changes in the river after the dam is breached,”她说. “Our research will continue after the dam is removed as we track sediment migration and monitor the river’s recovery.”

The Weir Dam was built to divert cooling water to a city-owned manufactured natural gas plant which no longer exists. City officials say removing the dam will open the river to fish pass年龄, 提高安全, and provide opportunities to redevelop the area for recreation. 他们计划在2022年夏末拆除大坝. 

“Andy and Shannon have a lot of real-world experience connected to every single aspect of the work that we did,Katherine Liu说, 她是麦迪逊大学地质学专业的大三学生, 威斯康辛州, who is participating in her first student-faculty research project on campus. “现在我正在考虑把这类工作作为一种职业.

“大坝现在已经有100多年的历史了,”刘说. “I really hope to witness the removal of the dam before graduation.”

This is Richardson’s second opportunity to use high-tech surveying equipment available in Earlham’s inventory. The senior geology major from the San Francisco Bay Area was a participant in a pilot program on campus that was sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The project resulted in the creation of high-resolution topography maps of Miller Farm, 球客体育app下载的经验农业项目.

“Using these tools in a real-life research setting — we’re creating a profile of the river bed — has been really valuable,”她说.

Members of the research team expect to complete their research this fall and present their findings at the Geological Society of America’s upcoming conference in Cincinnati, 俄亥俄州, 4月.

“My academic interests are in water quality so I’m e年龄r to share our findings at a professional conference,”Radloff说, 来自皮奥里亚的化学和地质学双学位, 伊利诺斯州, area.

“Most of the work I intend to apply for in the future is related to hydrology,” he said. “This is great for my resume and the opportunity to achieve that goal.”

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