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Toxic marsh threatens wildlife and people around it; researchers investigate

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

LA CROSSE, Wis (WEAU)- A marsh filled with lead from 20th century gun enthusiasts could be harmful to wildlife and the people living around it.

The La Crosse marsh is being tested by a team of researchers from UW-La Crosse for high contamination of lead and how it might be effecting the wildlife around it.

It was pure curiosity for UW-L assistant professor Ryan Perroy to check the lead levels of the marsh more than a year ago.

“We now know it is in the sediment and that was no surprise. We’re now working with a team of biologists to figure out what this means for the ecological system,” said Perroy.

Long ago, a local gun club used the marsh, which is near the UW-La Crosse campus and Myrick Park, riddling it with lead bullets and fragments.

“This area had been part of trap shooting range in the 30’s-60’s,” explained Perroy.

Today researchers are trying to answer one big question.

“Is it just sitting there and not presenting a problem or is it moving through the food chain?” asked Perroy.

Assistant biology professor Gretchen Gerrish believes that there is a good chance the fish and other wildlife has been contaminated.

“It’s likely with the levels they’ve found in the lead it’s a strong possibility it’s mobilizing into the food web,” said Gerrish.

Areas in the marsh that have been found with high contamination levels have been marked with red flags by the research team. Some areas are 10X over the safety levels recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Perroy and Gerrish advised that parents make sure their children not ingest anything from the marsh in the contaminated areas.

There’s no indication that the lead is getting into the city drinking water.

“The city of La Crosse gets its drinking water from a different reservoir so that’s not a concern here,” said Perroy.

The results from the research are expected to be available to the public within a couple months.

The team did receive a 65 thousand dollars in grant money this year to help continue the research.


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