Earlham researchers expect little contamination from Weir Dam removal

RICHMOND, Ind. – Researchers at Earlham College were surprised by their analysis of the sediment behind the Weir Dam.

Their study found that removing the dam is not expected to release significant contamination into the Whitewater River, according to a press release. The City of Richmond plans to remove the dam for safety reasons and to improve recreational opportunities for citizens. He received grants from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the dam.

“The sediment accumulated behind the dam is a testament to the industrial history of the Whitewater Gorge,” said Andy Moore, professor of earth and environmental sciences at Earlham. “Although we cannot guarantee the absence of contamination, the measured concentrations were much lower than we had expected. “

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The Earlham team worked with the city’s health district on the pre-withdrawal study which used high-tech satellite navigation equipment to survey the river channel. The team also collected cores of sediment accumulated behind the dam. The samples contained traces of metals and hydrocarbons, but did not contain pesticides or PCBs.

The century-old dam was built to divert cooling water to a city-owned natural gas plant that no longer exists, the statement said. Its withdrawal is scheduled for summer 2022.

The Weir Dam is a 10-foot-high low-fall dam that spans the Whitewater River.

Moore and Shannon Hayes, a graduate professional geologist from Indiana and geological curator at Earlham, began the study last summer with students Garris Radloff, Amelia Richardson and Katherine Liu as part of the Summer Collaborative Research Program. of college. The work was funded by an anonymous donor, the Earlham College Stephen and Sylvia Tregidga Burges Endowed Research Fund and the Borman Family Foundation.

“This is a great opportunity for Earlham students to gain experience working on real world issues while providing valuable service to the city,” said Hayes.

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

Liu, a junior from Madison, Wisconsin, who majored in geology, said she would now consider this kind of work a career.

“Andy and Shannon have a lot of real world experience related to every aspect of the work we’ve done,” Liu said.

“The dam is now over 100 years old. I really hope to see the dam being removed before graduation.

The Weir Dam is a 10-foot-high low-fall dam that spans the Whitewater River.

Richardson had previously used Earlham’s surveying equipment to create high-resolution topographic maps of Miller Farm, which is Earlham’s experimental farming program.

“Using these tools in a real research setting – we’re creating a profile of the riverbed – has been very helpful,” said the San Francisco Bay Area Senior Geology Major.

The research team plans to present their findings at the April conference of the Geological Society of America in Cincinnati.

“My academic interests are in water quality, so I look forward to sharing our findings at a professional conference,” said Radloff, a double major in chemistry and geology from the Peoria area, in the Illinois.

“Most of the work I intend to apply for in the future is related to hydrology. It’s great for my CV and the opportunity to achieve this goal.

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