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30-year study on acid rain in Wisconsin lakes ends Monday

VILAS COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - A 30-year study ends Monday on how Wisconsin lakes are affected by acid rain – the rain drops contaminated by chemical emissions on their way down.

Since 1984, the state DNR has had a 250-foot plastic barrier dividing Little Rock Lake in Vilas County. It will be removed on Monday.

The barrier has allowed scientists to make side-by-side comparisons of waters under different conditions and treatments.

DNR research scientist Carl Watras says the results provided the first proof that acid rain caused environmental damage – and it resulted in Congress approving limits on the sulfur dioxide emissions which contribute to acid rain.

Little Rock Lake was also the first place where scientists showed how mercury accumulated in the fish population.

Watras says the barrier on the lake is no longer needed. He says the lake will be restored to its natural condition, and scientists will keep seeing how atmospheric changes affect the water quality.