Microplastics Study on NC Waterways

Microplastics Study Measures Impact On Waterways in North Carolina

Measuring microplastics in North Carolina’s waterways is no small job. In collaboration with our colleagues at Waterkeepers Carolina, Winyah Rivers Alliance is launching a two-year study to collect surface water and sediment samples to understand better the volume of microplastics and macroplastic pollution in North Carolina’s streams, rivers, lakes, and bays. Our Lumber Riverkeeper, Jefferson Currie II, and our Waccamaw Riverkeeper, Cara Schildtknecht, are part of the study team.

The study “Improving Human and Ecosystem Health through Microplastic Reduction” launched in February as a collaborative project across 10 nonprofit environmental organizations. To get baselines, 15 Riverkeepers collected two surface water samples and sediment samples from their respective waterway. This is the first of bi-monthly samples that will be collected over two years.

Plastic pollution is the bane of the Riverkeeper…”we see it way too often in our wetlands, streams and rivers,” said Cara Schildtknecht, Waccamaw Riverkeeper “but very little is known about the amount of microplastic pollution in North Carolina’s waterways. This study will help us understand the volume of plastics in my watershed, the Waccamaw, and in Jeff’s watershed, the Lumber.

The first round of microplastics sampling at Second Creek in NC’s Waccamaw watershed. Photo courtesy of Cara Schildtknecht, Waccamaw Riverkeeper

Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to waterways and aquatic life. As plastics break down over time into microplastics, they are an environmental and public health issue. Microplastics are so small that they are not picked up by water filtration and are often eaten by fish, birds, and other aquatic animals, negatively impacting their health. 

The sad reality is plastic is everywhere. Plastic particles and pollution flow from our cities and communities to our rivers and our lakes to our oceans. Every waterway in North Carolina is impacted by plastic pollution. This study will measure how big of a problem microplastics pose. 

Waterkeepers Carolina (WKC) is a network of 16 Waterkeepers and their respective nonprofit organizations across North Carolina. The coalition collectively advocates on local and statewide issues to protect and promote water quality. One of those statewide issues is the presence of microplastic pollution in our state’s waterways.

Project partners UNC-Wilmington, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, and Plastic Ocean Project will collaborate with our Waterkeepers to get the best scientific data for this project. 

To follow this study and learn more about North Carolina’s Riverkeepers’ work, visit Waterkeepers Carolina>> or reach out to your local Waterkeeper.

Click here to contact:
Jeff Currie, Lumber Riverkeeper

Winyah Rivers Alliance

P.O. Box 554
Conway, SC 29528
843 .349 .4007

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