Microfiber pollution in a southern Lake Michigan watershed

Primary Submission Contact

Edward Kostelnik

Faculty Sponsor

Julie Peller

Faculty Sponsor Email Address



Arts and Sciences



Document Type

Poster Presentation


Fall 10-25-2019


Synthetic microfibers, such as polyester, rayon, acrylic, and nylon, originate from everyday materials such as clothing, blankets, and rugs. The shedding of these plastic microfibers, especially in laundry water, has led to water and sediment contamination in watersheds and surface water. Research in the field of microfiber pollution is important for many reasons, including the need to understand the types and quantity of plastic pollution that contaminate watersheds and surface water around the world. To evaluate the extent of microfiber pollution in a southern Lake Michigan watershed, the Salt Creek watershed, research has been carried out on water and sediment samples at four Salt Creek locations, at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) and the Lake Michigan shoreline. Water samples were collected and analyzed in the same manner as the common water quality parameter of total suspended solids (TSS). The procedure involves the collection of 500 mL water samples and the solid material is collected using filtration. We have made modifications to include the isolation and quantification of synthetic microfibers from these filtered samples. The recovered suspended solids were chemically processed using Fenton oxidation, which reacts with natural materials, including common cotton fibers. From the same locations, sediment samples were collected, and then processed and analyzed in the lab. To assess the effectiveness of the oxidation step on various materials, microfiber standards were created from different fabrics. These experiments also explored the durability of the different polymeric materials and the dyes. More than one hundred water samples were collected from the Lake Michigan tributary and after the number of contaminants in blanks were subtracted, 86% of water and sediment samples were found to contain one or more synthetic microfibers.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Edward Kostelnik is a chemistry and biology double major at Valparaiso University. He has participated in research on microfibers in the Lake Michigan for almost 2 and a half years. Edward Kostelnik wants to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in chemistry.

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