Microplastics Study Measures Impact On Waterways

Durham, NC – Measuring microplastics in North Carolina’s waterways is no small job. In collaboration with Waterkeepers Carolina, Haw River Assembly is launching a two-year study to collect surface water and sediment samples to understand better the volume of microplastics and macroplastic pollution in North Carolina’s streams, rivers, lakes, and bays.

The study “Improving Human and Ecosystem Health through Microplastic Reduction” launched in February as a collaborative project across 10 nonprofit environmental organizations. To get baselines, 15 Riverkeepers collected two surface water samples and sediment samples. This is the first of bi-monthly samples that will be collected over two years.

“We see plastic pollution on a daily basis,” said Jill Howell, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper, “but very little is known about the amount of microplastic pollution in North Carolina’s waterways. This study will help us understand the volume of plastics in our water basins.”

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to waterways and aquatic life. As plastics break down over time into microplastics, they are an environmental and public health issue. Microplastics are so small that they are not picked up by water filtration and are often eaten by fish, birds, and other aquatic animals, negatively impacting their health. 

The sad reality is plastic is everywhere. Plastic particles and pollution flow from our cities to our rivers and our lakes to our oceans. Every waterway in North Carolina is impacted by plastic pollution. This study will measure how big of a problem microplastics pose. 

Waterkeepers Carolina (WKC) is a network of 15 Waterkeepers and their respective nonprofit organizations across North Carolina. The coalition collectively advocates on local and statewide issues to protect and promote water quality. One of those statewide issues is the presence of microplastic pollution in our state’s waterways.

Project partners UNC-Wilmington, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Plastic Ocean Project will collaborate to get the best scientific data for this project. 

To follow this study and learn more about North Carolina’s Riverkeepers’ work, visit Waterkeepers Carolina – https://waterkeeperscarolina.org.

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