Dr. Julie Peller
Arts and Sciences
Microplastic (MP) pollution is ubiquitous in environments across the globe, since plastics are known to fragment into smaller pieces over time. Microplastics are contaminants of emerging concern and the full extent of their effects is unknown. In some areas, microplastics heavily contaminate surface waters and are susceptible to chemical weathering, which alters their properties. These pollutants have the potential to enter the trophic levels and disrupt biological systems, as well as serve as a vector for other environmental contaminants through adsorption. The increase in the input of MP pollution into the environment requires technical remediation strategies, as there is no natural mechanism for remediation of these pollutants. In Hammond, Indiana, the company that manufactures polyethylene (PE) portable toilets has released PE waste into the adjacent wetland. The current methods of remediation for the wetland involve using oil booms to contain the pollution. In this study, water and sediment samples were collected from the freshwater marsh and its adjoining lake that are contaminated with the PE shavings. Laboratory analyses of the samples indicate a pollution load of over 1000 MP per sample. Laboratory experiments were also conducted to investigate a potential means for plastic remediation using an agglomeration technique. The results of using different polymers, particle sizes, and chemical additives will be presented. This pollution incident exhibits the critical need for effective remediation strategies, as well as regulations that will protect the world’s surface waters.
Wilson, Antigone; Peller, Julie PhD; Iceman, Christopher PhD; Junglas, Seth; and Horne, Gregory P. PhD, "Investigation of a Local Plastic Pollution Incident and Presentation of a Potential Remediation Strategy" (2022). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 1068.