Quantifying and Analyzing Microfiber Pollution in the Salt Creek Watershed
Arts and Sciences
Research in the field of microfiber pollution is important in understanding the types and quantity of plastic pollution that contaminate in watersheds around the world. Synthetic microfibers, such as polyester, rayon, acrylic, and nylon are present in clothing, blankets, rugs and other items. The shedding of plastic microfibers from these materials, especially in laundry water, has led to water and sediment contamination in watershed and surface water. In order to understand the microfiber pollution in the local Lake Michigan watershed known as the Salt Creek watershed, research is being carried out on water and sediment samples from specific locations. Salt Creek flows into Lake Michigan and carries water discharged from wastewater treatment plants in Valparaiso and South Haven. Water samples (500 mL) and sediment samples have been collected and processed to isolate and identify synthetic microfibers. Water samples were filtered according to total suspended solids (TSS) methodology and sediment samples were subjected to a density gradient to separate floating or suspended materials, including the microfibers from the sediment. All samples were further processed using the Fenton reagent, which generates oxidative radicals that break down natural materials. Synthetic microfibers are not reactive. Microfiber standards were created from clothing of different materials to verify the efficiency of the lab procedures and were processed alongside the water samples. The majority of the collected water and sediment samples contained microfibers. This information is being analyzed in context with sources of synthetic microfibers to understand the presence and distribution in the local Lake Michigan watershed.
Huff, Allen; Smith, Ashley; Kostelnik, Eddie; Kubalewski, Maria; Montgomery, Emma; Peller, Julie; Eberhardt, Laurie; Clark, Robert; and Iceman, Christopher, "Quantifying and Analyzing Microfiber Pollution in the Salt Creek Watershed" (2018). Summer Interdisciplinary Research Symposium. 47.