Ubiquitous

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a trip last summer down the length of the Puyallup River, I collected water samples at various points along the route and sent them in to be analyzed for the presence of microplastics. The results just came back from the lab and there are some interesting points to ponder among them. The most sobering part of the tally, for me anyway, showed that plastic particles were present even in the sample that was collected just below the tongue of the Puyallup Glacier, high up above treeline on Mount Rainier. It really is everywhere. Here’s the summary of the samples, hot off the presses:

Path of the Puyallup
Washington, USA
Freshwater

Ken Campbell traveled the length of the Puyallup River in western Washington, from its source on the glacier on the flanks of Mount Rainier out 50 miles to the salt water of Puget Sound. Traveling via mountain bike, backpacking and canoeing, he collected samples along the way. Some samples leaked during shipping, but in total we still found 51 plastic particles (44 fibrous, 7 other shape).  4 pieces were found in the sample taken just below the mountain glacier, but the highest count (25 in one sample) came from near a recreation area.  Counts may have been higher for places further down the river, but leaking of bottles makes it impossible to determine accurate concentrations.  20 particles were blue, 22 were transparent, 2 red, 1 black, 6 other.

Spillage was unexpected and a bit of a downer, but there you go. Shipping water across the country has its difficulties. (Just means I might need to do this trip again, eh?) These results were processed by Dr. Abigail Barrows of the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Maine. A pilot program to include more sampling points within the watershed has been funded by the PWI for 2016, and will include students from schools along the river and the smaller streams and waterways that feed into it.

More to follow…

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