• Spatial and Temporal Distribution and Abundance Microplastics in Lake Champlain Long-Term Monitoring Samples

      Garneau, Danielle; Allen, Eileen; Hagar, Susan-Marie; Austin, Lindsey (2017)
      Microplastics are particles less than 5mm in size, characterized as fibers, fragments, beads, foams, and pellets. Microplastics (MP) arise from four main processes: environmental degradation (UV exposure, mechanical and/or biological), direct release by means of wastewater treatment processing, unintentional loss of raw materials, and discharge of macerated wastes. Microplastics are potentially toxic to aquatic biota and the presence of microplastics in freshwater ecosystems is largely under-researched. The goal of our research was to examine the spatial and temporal distribution of microplastics and pre-production particulate (nurdles) from long-term monitoring (LTM) zooplankton samples within Lake Champlain collected between 1992-2016. Nurdles were counted in full from samples, whereas microplastics (e.g., fragments, fibers) were subsampled due to size. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) characterized nurdles as polyisoprene rubber ribbon. Within the LTM samples (n = 2265), nurdles (n = 3455) and microplastics (n = 249), predominantly fibers, were identified. The greatest microplastic abundance was noted in 2015 (n = 73 microplastics, n = 494 samples). Nurdles were found only in samples that had been collected 2012-2016, with the greatest nurdle abundance noted in 2012 (n = 1,169 nurdles, n = 412 samples) and at varying depths. Nurdle abundance declined since the 2012 peak and in 2015 was greatly reduced (n = 531 nurdles, n = 494 samples). Spatial distribution maps suggest the complexity of the story with high abundances at deep central locations, as well as shallow isolated bays. The high influx of nurdles in 2012 may be related to the 2011 Lake Champlain flood; however more research will need to be conducted to tease apart timing and potential nurdle point-sources (e.g., train tracks, industrial/urban centers).
    • A Survey of Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Plant Effluent in the Lake Champlain Basin

      Garneau, Danielle; Brown, Sadie; Lee, Erin; Buksa, Brandon; Niekrewicz, Thomas (2017)
      Microplastic pollution researchers are beginning to quantify, characterize, and collaborate on finding solutions to this emerging pollution problem. Recent studies have documented consumer care products and laundering of synthetic garments as major sources of microplastics. Most current wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) technologies are unable to capture and remove particulate size; thus, bioaccumulation over time poses a threat to aquatic organisms. In 2015, we began surveying WWTP post-treatment effluent samples from the city of Plattsburgh, NY (n = 31) and in 2016, added 3 other plants in the Lake Champlain watershed, specifically St Albans, VT (n = 8), Ticonderoga, NY (n = 4), and Burlington, VT (n = 1). Twenty-fourâ hour post-treatment effluent samples were collected and digested using wet peroxide oxidation methods. All samples were characterized based on microplastic type (e.g., fragment, fiber, pellet, film, foam) and color. Across all sites, the majority of microplastics were characterized as fragments, followed by fibers, with the exception of St Albans, which was dominated by fibers. The fragment:fiber ratio was 51:23 at Plattsburgh, 61:18 at St Albans, 44:40 at Ticonderoga, and 69:18 at Burlington. Pellets and films were characterized at all sites as 1â 12% of total particulates; whereas foam comprised 3â 11% of total particulates and was absent in Ticonderoga. Over the course of this collection period, high flow rates yielded more pellets and low flow rates more films. When accounting for the number of samples processed, average particles per 24-hour sampling event are 21, 29, 49, and 117 for Plattsburgh, St. Albans, Ticonderoga, and Burlington, respectively. Plattsburgh and Burlington serve a similar-sized population and have a similar capacity, the difference in particle abundances may be due to differences in infrastructure updates (2013 at Plattsburgh and 1994 at Burlington). St. Albans and Ticonderoga serve similar population sizes; however, St. Albans has tertiary treatment, which may account for the lower average particulates per sample (29 at St. Albans and 49 at Ticonderoga). By documenting wastewater treatment plants as a source of microplastics, we can share these findings with wastewater treatment plant operators, lake stewards, government officials, and work towards solutions both up and downstream.