Are Microplastic Fibers Usually Found in Textiles Prevalent in Nebraska Freshwater Bodies?
Microplastics are increasingly being detected in freshwater systems and can have negative impacts on the environment including growth limitations of aquatic organisms, degraded water quality through the sorption of inorganic pollutants and heavy metals, and a reduction in the dewaterability of activated sludge. Our study will provide better understanding of the source of microplastics in freshwater bodies in Nebraska as well as the dominant plastic types that occur in suburban and agricultural areas.
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[00:00:00.880]Hello, my name is Seth Caines,
[00:00:02.590]and this past summer I've had the opportunity
[00:00:04.870]to do research with Dr. Shannon Bartelt-Hunt
[00:00:07.100]in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
[00:00:09.550]here at UNL, researching whether microplastic fibers
[00:00:12.700]that are usually found in textiles
[00:00:14.170]are prevalent in Nebraska freshwater bodies.
[00:00:17.490]So what is a microplastic?
[00:00:20.169]A microplastic is a plastic
[00:00:21.550]that is less than five millimeters in size
[00:00:23.510]and ranges between a variety
[00:00:24.700]of different morphologies and types.
[00:00:26.880]Different morphologies include things
[00:00:28.940]like microplastic fibers and microplastic beads.
[00:00:31.618]Different types include polyethylene and polyester.
[00:00:35.270]So why are we studying microplastics?
[00:00:39.040]Microplastics have become an increased health concern
[00:00:41.600]in organisms when ingested
[00:00:43.150]as well as a hypothesized threat to water quality.
[00:00:46.650]Along with this, because of the fact
[00:00:48.210]that there is more plastic production annually now,
[00:00:52.210]there's hypothetically more microplastic pollution
[00:00:55.720]occurring in the environment.
[00:00:57.090]Because of this, there's a need for more research
[00:00:59.750]to be done on what types of microplastics
[00:01:02.050]are infiltrating the environment
[00:01:03.970]and how they're impacting the environment.
[00:01:08.220]Though there's a lot of research done generally
[00:01:10.470]on microplastic pollution as a whole,
[00:01:12.780]there is not a lot of research done
[00:01:14.380]on specific environmental matrices.
[00:01:16.850]Therefore there's a need to quantify and identify
[00:01:19.690]different microplastics that are being found
[00:01:21.600]in these environmental matrices
[00:01:23.100]to further understand the sources, fates,
[00:01:25.490]and impacts of microplastics on these environments.
[00:01:29.740]So my research project this past summer
[00:01:32.650]has dealt with quantifying and identifying
[00:01:35.090]different types of microplastics that are prevalent
[00:01:37.650]within Nebraska freshwater bodies
[00:01:40.010]as well as analyzing the effects of these concentrations
[00:01:43.040]and types of microplastics on the water quality.
[00:01:46.680]So throughout the summer
[00:01:48.540]I went to different sampling locations
[00:01:51.010]around Eastern Nebraska taking grab samples of water,
[00:01:54.240]using a four-liter amber bottle.
[00:01:56.600]Whenever I would go to different sampling locations
[00:01:58.640]and take water samples I would also make sure
[00:02:00.520]to take different water quality tests
[00:02:02.500]like temperature, pH, and conductivity
[00:02:04.810]using a handheld meter; nitrate, nitrite,
[00:02:07.840]and phosphate using test strips; and total solids,
[00:02:10.820]total dissolved solids, and total suspended solids
[00:02:13.600]using a standard method that was practiced in the lab.
[00:02:18.960]After taking my water samples from the environment,
[00:02:22.720]I went back into the lab and extracted
[00:02:24.840]my microplastics from my water samples
[00:02:27.660]using a sieving and density-separation technique
[00:02:30.680]in which the water sample was poured
[00:02:32.490]through a stack of sieves and then each sieve size
[00:02:35.900]was rinsed into a funnel in which they were left
[00:02:38.590]to density separate overnight.
[00:02:41.480]After density separating we'd filter out
[00:02:43.690]all the biological material that was captured
[00:02:46.040]at the bottom of the funnel
[00:02:47.280]and we were left with our microplastics,
[00:02:48.990]which we were then able to filter out
[00:02:52.300]and then take into the lab for quantification.
[00:02:56.560]For quantification we used
[00:02:57.960]a Nikon SMZ25 dissecting microscope
[00:03:01.970]for quantification purposes in which we were able
[00:03:05.510]to zoom into our filter paper
[00:03:08.510]and look specifically at microplastic fibers and beads
[00:03:12.810]that were found in each sample.
[00:03:16.020]We were able to count how many microplastics were present
[00:03:18.740]in each sample and further see what the morphology was.
[00:03:23.120]So as a result, we were able to find
[00:03:25.460]that through our grab samples there were microplastics
[00:03:28.350]present in Nebraska freshwater bodies
[00:03:31.040]and, specifically dealing with the Elkhorn River,
[00:03:33.530]which was one of our sampling locations,
[00:03:35.680]we found that the further along you moved downstream
[00:03:39.230]or further down in the watershed,
[00:03:41.740]there was a higher concentration of microplastics.
[00:03:45.040]When we were doing research at the Elkhorn River,
[00:03:47.490]we sampled from three different locations
[00:03:49.570]in which there was an upstream and downstream location
[00:03:52.680]from a wastewater treatment plant
[00:03:54.300]and then also a location where there was effluence
[00:03:58.150]being directly deposited.
[00:04:01.360]Because of this, we see
[00:04:02.910]that, as you moved down the watershed
[00:04:05.160]and further away from the wastewater treatment plants,
[00:04:08.490]there was a higher concentration of microplastics.
[00:04:12.440]Along with the concentration of microplastics
[00:04:14.660]that we were studying, we also saw that there was a trend
[00:04:18.360]with the size of microplastics that we were finding.
[00:04:21.730]On average upstream and downstream
[00:04:23.720]of the wastewater treatment plant,
[00:04:25.270]we found that there was an average
[00:04:26.720]of 250 to 500 microns in size for each microplastic,
[00:04:32.430]but this wasn't the same for our effluence
[00:04:35.740]that was coming out of the wastewater treatment plant.
[00:04:38.420]When looking at our effluence,
[00:04:39.720]we did not see the same trends
[00:04:42.350]as the upstream and downstream locations.
[00:04:45.130]So there's probably more research that needs to be done
[00:04:47.600]on the microplastics that are coming out of the effluence
[00:04:50.070]to see if there's a larger correlation
[00:04:51.980]between microplastic size and sampling location.
[00:04:57.370]Along with analyzing the size and concentration
[00:05:00.090]of microplastics we tried to see
[00:05:02.460]if there was an overall trend in water quality
[00:05:04.930]and microplastic concentration,
[00:05:07.100]and we have not seen much correlation thus far.
[00:05:11.870]We specifically looked closer at the correlation
[00:05:15.840]between microplastic concentration and total solids
[00:05:20.080]as well as microplastic concentration
[00:05:22.170]and total nitrate found.
[00:05:24.360]And though we did not see an overall trend
[00:05:26.170]between the total solids and microplastic concentration,
[00:05:29.550]we did find that, using our preliminary data,
[00:05:32.700]there seems to be a correlation
[00:05:34.590]between total nitrate concentration in the water
[00:05:37.670]and the microplastic concentration that was found.
[00:05:40.460]But there needs to be more research done
[00:05:42.300]to see if this is an actual fact or not.
[00:05:45.250]So in summary, we found
[00:05:47.140]that the farther downstream you went
[00:05:49.140]in the watershed for the Elkhorn River,
[00:05:51.360]the more microplastic accumulation was observed.
[00:05:55.530]Along with this, we found that on average
[00:05:57.660]the particle size for these microplastics
[00:06:00.210]are around 250 to 500 microns
[00:06:03.000]as well as that initial data may indicate
[00:06:05.210]that there's a correlation between nitrate concentration
[00:06:08.010]and microplastic concentration,
[00:06:09.900]but further research needs to be done
[00:06:11.810]to see if this is a fact or not.
[00:06:15.020]in conclusion, we have found
[00:06:16.910]that agricultural land use sites
[00:06:19.640]and wastewater treatment plants may be a source
[00:06:22.380]to microplastics since those are the primary land uses
[00:06:26.330]surrounding the Elkhorn River.
[00:06:28.620]Along with this, we have found
[00:06:30.570]that our data may be important due to the fact
[00:06:33.450]that it is one of the only data sets
[00:06:35.780]that shows a correlation between microplastic concentration
[00:06:40.170]and agricultural land use.
[00:06:42.900]Future directions for our research includes
[00:06:45.630]analyzing the microplastic types and quantities
[00:06:48.330]in Nebraska freshwater along with their impacts more,
[00:06:51.820]so looking more into different water bodies
[00:06:55.070]that are surrounding Nebraska
[00:06:56.730]whether it's in Eastern Nebraska or Western Nebraska,
[00:06:59.820]along with analyzing different sampling methods
[00:07:03.590]for these microplastics.
[00:07:05.180]So not only doing grab samples
[00:07:07.160]but also taking net samples and sediment samples
[00:07:10.720]and seeing if there's microplastics in there.
[00:07:13.920]Along with using different sampling techniques,
[00:07:16.390]I hope to also look into developing more sustainable designs
[00:07:20.580]to products and industries that release microplastics
[00:07:24.270]to combat the microplastic pollution
[00:07:26.240]that's coming out of these industries.
[00:07:29.770]Overall, I would like to thank Dr. Bartelt-Hunt
[00:07:32.820]who was my faculty mentor throughout this entire project,
[00:07:35.520]as well as Moriah Brown, an REU student this past summer,
[00:07:38.700]who helped me throughout the entire summer.
[00:07:41.090]I'd also like to thank Meredith Sutton and Nasrin Naderi,
[00:07:44.540]graduate assistants who helped me
[00:07:46.170]throughout the entire project,
[00:07:47.690]and the UNL McNair Scholars Program
[00:07:49.750]for funding my research this entire summer.
[00:07:52.510]Thank you for your time.
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