PIQUA — Earlier this week, the City of Piqua Utilities Department released a pair of floating wetlands into the canal just north of the Fountain Park baseball diamond as part of a project to test whether floating wetlands might be a good tool to improve the city’s drinking water quality.
Summer interns Colton Bachman and Dylan Long built the wetlands from water filter material and flotation foam, with each measuring about 36 square feet, and planted them with native wetland plants.
“Wetlands act as filters. As water passes through the plants, the nutrients and sediment are captured by the plants, which in return, release oxygen that improves water quality and aquatic life,” Sky Schelle, the city’s water quality coordinator, said. “These test projects aren’t going to change water quality, but we hope they help us understand if a larger investment in this technology might.”
The placement of the floating wetlands, which cost less than $1,000, was selected with fishers and boaters in mind.
“We need access to the sites for easy sampling, but we also didn’t want to place them where they’d be in the way of boats or the general public,” Schelle explained. “I think we found spots that serve both purposes, but do ask that the public leave the wetlands alone so we have the best chance possible of collecting good data.”
Schelle was inspired to bring the floating wetlands to Piqua after seeing a similar project in a small Lake Erie harbor while attending a conference earlier this year.
“The wetland was credited with reducing algae and phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in the bay, so we wondered if something similar might work in Piqua,” Schelle said. “Since wetlands filter sediment and chemicals out of water, the City is interested in learning if floating wetlands might be a useful tool to help safeguard the water quality of Swift Run Lake, which is a source of Piqua’s drinking water.”
Since the main goal of the project is to learn what kind of time and resources are necessary to maintain the wetlands, the City plans to leave them in place for months, if not longer, Schelle said. “The vegetation will be trimmed back in the winter and we may take one of the wetlands out for the winter.”
Interns Long and Bachman are both local residents. Long graduated in May from the University of Dayton with a degree in biology, and Bachman is an incoming sophomore at Wittenberg University, majoring in business management.
The pair agreed that interning with the City of Piqua “sounded more fun than landscaping and other jobs we’ve had in the past.” In addition to the floating wetlands project, Long and Bachman have collected data along streams, made maps of stormwater pipes, and done numerous inspections.
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341