There should be fewer days when Maumee Bay beaches are under a public health advisory this summer thanks to a wetland restoration project led by a University of Toledo environmental scientist.The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Project includes the addition of a sedimentation pond in Wolf Creek and treatment wetland near Maumee Bay State Park that will filter out Escherichia coli bacteria and phosphorus pollutants before runoff water enters Lake Erie.
“The goal is for better water quality at Maumee Bay State Park, which in recent years has had health advisories posted 20 percent of the time due to high levels of bacteria in the water and that has had a negative impact on attendance to the beaches,” said Dr. Daryl Dwyer, UT professor of environmental sciences, who led the restoration.
The project was funded with two federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants totaling $1.8 million: “Passive Treatment Wetland to Improve Nearshore Health and Reduce Nonpoint Source Pollution” and “Reduction of Sediment and Bacteria Loadings to Public Beaches at Maumee Bay State Park via Enhanced Riparian Habitat.”
The two-stage treatment system begins with the sedimentation pond in Wolf Creek, where rolling bed sediment and particles with attached bacteria and phosphorus would accumulate at the bottom of the pond.
The water would then traverse through a three-tiered wetland, where additional bacteria, sediment and phosphorus are retained and aquatic plants take up the extra phosphorus.
By the time the runoff water from the Wolf Creek watershed enters Lake Erie through Maumee Bay, much of its bacteria and pollutants will have been filtered out.
The completion of the project was celebrated at an event May 27 when Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur praised the University for obtaining the competitive federal grant funding to support what she called “an example of a success that actually has worked.”
“This is a place where the rubber meets the road, where the stream meets the lake, and where we have to filter,” Kaptur said. “We have to find solutions so that Maumee Bay State Park does not have to keep posting, ‘Beaches closed. No swimming allowed now.’ And we have to figure out a way to clean our lake.”
Early data observations show better-than-expected water quality thanks to UT’s restoration project. There has been up to 94 percent reduction in E. coli bacteria and a 50 percent reduction in total phosphorus, Dwyer said.
The phosphorus accumulated in the sedimentation pond can be reused by farmers to fertilize their crops, Dwyer said. That pond’s design has the capacity to remove 20 years of sediment from the creek; optional dredging can extend its lifespan.
Dwyer and his research team are investigating ways to scale up the project in the Maumee River watershed with other target locations for similar restoration projects to prevent the nonpoint source pollutants from entering Lake Erie in other areas.