When some people think about wetlands, they conjure up visions of a slimy green breeding ground for plague or malaria, Chev Kellogg said with a laugh.
Contrary to popular belief, wetlands can suspend metals and construction costs are minimal, said Kellogg, a scientist with expertise in depression wetlands with the Oklahoma University.
Unfortunately, because wetlands have such a bad rap, according to Kellogg, two-thirds of them have been destroyed by bulldozers in the name of development in Oklahoma since the beginning of statehood.
Sixty percent of the state's wetlands have disappeared since the 1970s, federal records indicate.
Kellogg said not only is OU formulating a plan to create wetlands in the Tar Creek mining field, he also has made a personal commitment to tout the benefits of such a natural preserve.
Kellog said he hopes to also dispel a few rumors, too. Such as the one that wetlands are “always wet”. Kellogg said wetlands can be forested, grassy, seasonal, mineral or organic soil and many other variations.
A wetlands area, according to Kellogg, can be small narrow strips or vast refuges but there is no set shape or size.
Wetlands are defined as an area that has the following elements: Anoxic at least part of the time, contains specific types of plants and where standing water is visible at least on occasion.
Wetlands can act as filters, thus are sometimes dubbed “nature's kidneys” that, Kellogg explained, filter out contaminants, pollutants, excess nutrients and metals from water systems via a combination of geochemistry and biological conversion.
More simply put, Kellogg said that even a “lousy bulldozer operator who made uneven hills, could get the job done.” If the bottom of the chat pile nobody seems to want was simply left uneven as the last loads were taken out, wetlands would evolve with no outside influence.
As the craters fill with water, plants will naturally grow in those areas, as is evidenced in several Tar Creek Superfund Site areas today, and Kellogg said, there is virtually little cost.
Numerous fish, birds, insects, and amphibian species use wetlands for food, reproduction sites and habitats, Kellogg said.
Another function of wetlands is flood abatement, because according to Kellogg, those areas intercept storm runoff and prevent downstream flooding of populated areas.
On the flip side, wetlands provide a groundwater recharge, especially important in arid areas, releasing water during low flow.
Not that Oklahomans have much concern, but wetlands, according to Kellogg, prevent massive erosion and protect shorelines, acting as hurricane buffers.
Most beneficial to Tar Creek, is that wetlands will clean water because they act as a significant filter of iron, lead and zinc, Kellogg said.
He hopes one day this inexpensive act of nature, with a plan OU is currently devising via a passive treatment system will provide a simple solution to the nation's largest Superfund Site.