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Microplastics in Lake Champlain

For the past few years, we have been collaborating with Dr. Sherri Mason (SUNY Fredonia environmental chemist) on a survey of microplastics in Lake Champlain. Our first survey involved collecting, processing (acid-peroxide digest) of post-treatment waste-water treatment plant (WWTP) effluent. This research afforded SUNY Plattsburgh 7 students (Yvonne Chu, Karyn Ehmann, Todd Drake, Elizabeth Chaskey, Taylor Hirsch, Jason Barnes, Erin Moseman, Chad Hammer, Hope VanBrocklin, Tom Niekrewicz, Brandon Buksa, Sue Hagar, and Lindsey Austin) an opportunity to interface with environmental professionals, learn field and lab safety and chemistry skills, and gain experience identifying microplastics under the scope. All samples were sent to Dr. Mason for further identification using an Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometer (FTIR) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM).

Manuscript on microplastics in  wastewater treatment effluent in revision:

Mason, S.A., Garneau, D., Sutton, R., Chu, Y., Ehmann, K., Barnes, J., Fink, P., Papazissimos, D., Rogers, D. 2015. Microplastic pollution is widely detected in US municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent. Environmental Pollution 218: 1045-1054.







Link to student research poster on microplastics in wastewater treatment plant effluent


 
Yvonne Chu sampling at the plattsburgh wastewater treatment plant
 

Karyn Ehmann and Yvonne Chu Sykping in to Dr. Sherri Mason's lab at SUNY Fredonia
 

Water running through our sieves at WWTP
 
 
Sieves collecting at WWTP
 

Microplastics collected at our WWTP
 
Skype meeting with Dr. Sherri Mason and her team at SUNY Fredonia
 
Microplastic fiber from WWTP samples
 

Todd Drake looking at his sample under the scope to quantify microplastics


The goal of the 2015 research focused on the movement of these microplastics (e.g., beads, foams, fibers, fragments) up the food chain. In particular, Erin Moseman and Jason Barnes performed similar acid-peroxide digests on the digestive tracts of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) that were ice harvested from Lake Champlain.

Link to student research poster on the bioaccumulation of microplastics up the food chain in Lake Champlain

 

Microbead from our sampling

photo credit: Dr. Sherri Mason (SUNY Fredonia)
 

Erin Moseman preparing to start
the acid-peroxide digest on perch
digestive tracts
 
 
 

Microplastic samples ready to ship to Dr. Sherri Mason at SUNY Fredonia for SEM and FTIR analysis
 
Microplastic digest sample in process
 

Microplastic fibers and fragment from yellow perch digestive tracts
 

Suspect foam plastic-rubber particle
from LCRI samples July 2015

photo credit: Gabriella Doud (LCRI)
 
Suspect foam plastic-rubber particle from LCRI samples July 2015photo credit: Gabriella Doud (LCRI)
Suspect foam plastic-rubber particle from LCRI samples July 2015
photo credit: Gabriella Doud (LCRI)
Suspect foam plastic-rubber particle from LCRI samples July 2015...ellipsoid but cut edges

photo credit: Gabriella Doud (LCRI)
Suspect foam plastic-rubber particle from LCRI samples July 2015
photo credit: Gabriella Doud (LCRI)
 Suspect foam plastic-rubber particle from LCRI samples July 2015...note that backbone ridge
photo credit: Gabriella Doud (LCRI)
 Schematic from Wright et al. 2013 of fate of microplastics up the food chain
 
Microplastics collected at our WWTPphoto credit: Dr. Sherri Mason (SUNY Fredonia)


Our intent as we (myself and student Hope VanBrocklin) progress in this food chain research is to sample other fish species, as well as work with cormorants that were harvested by the DEC as part of their nuisance species removal work.


On July 20th, 2015, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand came to the shores of Plattsburgh to speak of her proposed legislation, which has bipartisan backing, to ban microbeads from personal care products (e.g., exfoliants, toothpastes, etc.). We were there to share our research and speak on behalf of other scientists, sharing our findings with the public.

News media coverage on SUNY Plattsburgh student research on microplastics in Lake Champlain:

EXCITING BREAKING NEWS: President Obama signs the bill to ban microbeads in personal care products that Senator Gillibrand and others put forth:

This bill passed through the House of Representatives on December 7, 2015 and unanimously with the Senate on December 18, 2015.

We secured funding from NOAA Lake Champlain SeaGrant and work closely with Lake Champlain Research Institute researchers (Dr. Timothy Mihuc, Luke Meyers, Mark Lamay, Chad Hammer, Gabriella Doud and others) and Dr. Sherri Mason (SUNY Fredonia) in efforts to determine the distribution and source of this microplastic.