Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Defining Wetlands

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Defining Wetlands

Article excerpt

I read with interest David J. Tenenbaum's article about constructed wetlands in the January 2004 issue of EHP (Tenenbaum 2004). While I noted his caveat that "their design remains a bit of an uncertain art," I think he should have gone further to ensure that engineers do not immediately embrace constructed wetlands as a panacea for waste treatment and decontamination.

I also find myself increasingly unsettled by articles such as this one as potentially and inadvertently capitalizing on the opinion of the populace that wetlands are good places--a widespread view these days (deservedly so) because of excellent advocacy by government agencies and environmental nongovernment organizations such as Ducks Unlimited.

Although the sewage treatment facilities promoted in the article (Tenenbaum 2004) may resemble wetlands, they are far from the real thing, or at least as far as the term is generally understood. In fact, I noted that later in the article Tenenbaum turned his attention to wetland restoration projects. In my experience, these again generally involve real wetlands, so to speak. Thus our wetland contrivances, enhancements, or other more utilitarian versions are more fairly not referred to as "restoration" for the straightforward reason that the former condition of these sites, the target for restoration, did not include sewage treatment. …

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