Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016NJ378B

Microplastic pollution in New Jersey surface waters

Institute: New Jersey
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $40,000

Principal Investigators: Beth Ravit, Keith Cooper, Brian Buckley

Abstract: Plastic pollution is acknowledged as a critical problem affecting freshwater and marine systems. Widespread use of products containing plastic microbeads, and the inability of wastewater treatment processes to remove these pollutants, is an increasing aquatic threat. Although marine plastic has been widely researched, relatively little is known about concentrations or toxic effects of plastic microbeads in freshwater ecosystems. Recent research indicates that highly urbanized areas are exposed to greater concentrations of microbead pollution. Water column samples collected from the Raritan and Passaic Rivers will be investigated to calculate surface water microbead densities and to aid in identifying potential microbead sources at multiple sampling locations. Recovered plastic microbeads will be chemically analyzed to characterize both adsorbed persistent organic pollutants, as well as plasticizers in the beads themselves. Model vertebrate and invertebrate organisms will be exposed to microbeads to determine observable microbead toxicity effects. This research will provide data urgently needed to quantify amounts and potential toxicity of microscopic plastic pollutants entering New Jersey’s surface waterways prior to institution of a partial ban, commencing in 2018, on New Jersey production or sale of microbeads in personal care products. The data will aide in establishing a baseline of current microbead pollution and contribute to assessing effectiveness of the future ban in addressing this threat to New Jersey’s freshwater and marine water quality.