Relatively low levels of microplastics detected in Okanagan Lake, Kelowna wastewater – Kelowna News

A preliminary study has, unsurprisingly, confirmed the presence of microplastics in Okanagan Lake and in Kelowna’s municipal wastewater.

The study conducted by Okanagan College students and several community partners found the microplastics levels are relatively low when compared to other datasets such as the Great Lakes or Pacific Ocean.

“Microplastics are a global issue, and we are only now beginning to investigate the implications of plastics that could persist for centuries in our ecosystems,” said Gregg Howald, CEO of FreshWater Life.

The study collected samples from five locations on Okanagan Lake near Kelowna in August — north and south of the WR Bennett Bridge, near the outflow of Kelowna’s wastewater treatment facility, around the mouth of Mission Creek, and further south of the creek.

Researchers also collected samples from the wastewater treatment facility itself in September.

Eight students and professors from Okanagan College’s water engineering technology diploma program worked with the researchers to analyze the samples.

Initial results confirm that microplastics (less than 5 millimeters in diameter) are present in both water sources.

In total, about 2.75 grams of plastic were collected across all five sample locations. (out of a total of 155,000 letters of water filtered across all sample sites). The greatest concentration of microplastics was collected below the William R. Bennett bridge and yielded 1.1009g.

The full details of the study are here. Additional sampling and study is planned.

“The students’ report showed there were differences between the five sample sites,” notes Erin Radomske, OC WET Professor. “These were very small – on the order of grams per site. The research showed us that the techniques employed are effective for detecting microplastics on the surface and that yes, sadly, microplastics are present on the surface, although not in huge abundance.”

“We are talking about teaspoons of plastic over 30,000 liters of water,” Radomske adds. “However, these findings remind us that people should continue to be mindful of their behaviors as it relates to plastics. Microplastics came from larger pieces of plastic: bags, bottles, fibres. That little bit of plastic that flies off the boat or falls in the creek, breaks down and can accumulate. We all need to be mindful of our own choices and influences.”

The Okanagan Basin Water Board called the study “impressive.”

“Their initial findings are troubling but perhaps not unexpected. Plastic seems to have permeated all our lives. By putting a spotlight on the issue, we hope people will be encouraged to help protect Okanagan waters – the source of our drinking water and for all living things,” said OBWB executive director Anna Warwick Sears.

Okanagan residents are encouraged to get involved in, or organize, a local beach or stream cleanup to help remove plastics from waterways.

Other tips to reduce the introduction of microplastics into our ecosystems:

  • Remember to pack out what you pack in when visiting a beach, hiking, or camping.
  • Limit your use of single-use disposable plastics.
  • Consider your garment choices: synthetic clothing sheds microplastic fibers each time you wash them; transition to cotton or other natural fibres.
  • Install or invest in microplastic-capturing devices for your laundry machine.

MICROPLASTICS OKANAGAN – trailer from Copper Sky Productions on Vimeo.

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