People Asked: Q & A

Lagoon Questions and Answers

03. Muck Removal & Dredging

Muck is fine-grained organic rich sediment with a high water content.  It is made up primarily of clay, sand and organic matter (decaying plant material).  Because of its high water and clay content, muck looks like black ooze.  Muck is not the natural bottom of the lagoon.  It is found throughout the lagoon though it tends to accumulate in deeper waters, sometimes in layers more than 6 feet thick. Muck covers the natural sandy bottom, destroys habitats such as seagrasses by inhibiting growth, and impacts bottom-dwelling organisms by depleting oxygen in the sediments and surroundings waters.  Muck accumulates potential pollutants and stores and releases nutrients into the water, which can then feed algal blooms. Every time the muck is disturbed, by water movement caused by wave action from weather, boats or other activity, it “fluxes, or re-releases the harmful nitrogen and phosphorus back into the Lagoon.  The only way to prevent this continual release of these pollutants is to remove the muck by dredging.
Tags: dredging, flux, muck

Removing muck is only one necessary tool for restoring the Lagoon. Reducing the inflow of material that makes up the muck is essential as well; otherwise in time the same problem will return. The muck deposits formed over a period of the past 50 years by silt, utility and septic system sewage, grass clippings, stormwater runoff, etc. entering the Lagoon.

Until about 1996, our wastewater treatment plants dumped their partially treated sewage directly into the Lagoon. This largely ended due to the federal Clean Water Act and the IRL System and Basin Act of 1990, reducing contributors to muck formation. Under the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Plan other controls are also being installed, including retention ponds, baffle boxes, and other solutions, which slow the formation of new muck.


Photo by L. Savary, courtesy of IRLNEP



Get Connected with us.

Want to help? Join up.