Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019NY192B

Microplastic pollution in Onondaga and Skaneateles lakes in central New York

Institute: New York
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-03-01 End Date: 2020-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $9,853 Total Non-Federal Funds: $4,926

Principal Investigators: Charles Driscoll

Abstract: Microplastic (<5 mm) pollution is a globally recognized problem brought about by the Plastic Age. There have been few studies on the abundance of microplastics in freshwater ecosystems, particularly in central New York. Microplastics can negatively impact ecosystem health by affecting the growth, reproduction, and overall fitness of aquatic organisms (Horton et al. 2017). Therefore, it is important to quantify the abundance and potential sources of microplastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems, especially those that are situated near urbanized areas. Onondaga Lake is a historically polluted lake located on the outskirts of the city of Syracuse. Over the past decade, this lake has had remarkable improvements in water quality. However, it receives 20% of its water from the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro) and is impacted by combined sewer overflows, both of which are potential avenues for microplastic transport. In contrast to Onondaga Lake, Skaneateles Lake is a relatively pristine source of water for the City of Syracuse and is unfiltered prior to distribution (as a result of a filtration avoidance agreement). Onondaga and Skaneateles lakes represent important ecosystems and resources for central New York, and should be characterized for microplastic abundance to determine any potential sources of plastic pollution. We propose a study that will characterize the abundance, distribution, and potential sources of microplastics in Onondaga Lake and its major tributaries and outlets, as well as a general survey of Skaneateles Lake. In this study manta trawling will be used for surface water sample collection. Following collection, samples will be separated into different size fractions and categories and subsequently be counted to determine abundance. Fourier-transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy will be used to accurately distinguish polymer types of microplastic particles. This study would provide novel data on the abundance and distribution of microplastics in two important freshwater ecosystems in central New York. The research will provide education and training opportunities for graduate (LM is a Ph.D student) and undergraduate students. Information from the investigation will inform municipalities on the extent of plastic pollution in freshwater ecosystems and potential mitigation options