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Municipal wastewater effluent has been proposed as one pathway for microplastics to enter the aquatic environment. Here we present a broad study of municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent as a pathway for microplastic pollution to enter receiving waters. A total of 90 samples were analyzed from 17 different facilities across the United States. Averaging all facilities and sampling dates, 0.05 ± 0.024 microparticles were found per liter of effluent. Though a small value on a per liter basis, even minor municipal wastewater treatment facilities process millions of liters of wastewater each day, yielding daily discharges that ranged from ∼50,000 up to nearly 15 million particles. Averaging across the 17 facilities tested, our results indicate that wastewater treatment facilities are releasing over 4 million microparticles per facility per day. Fibers and fragments were found to be the most common type of particle within the effluent; however, some fibers may be derived from non-plastic sources. Considerable inter- and intra-facility variation in discharge concentrations, as well as the relative proportions of particle types, was observed. Statistical analysis suggested facilities serving larger populations discharged more particles. Results did not suggest tertiary filtration treatments were an effective means of reducing discharge. Assuming that fragments and pellets found in the effluent arise from the 'microbeads' found in many cosmetics and personal care products, it is estimated that between 3 and 23 billion (with an average of 13 billion) of these microplastic particles are being released into US waterways every day via municipal wastewater. This estimate can be used to evaluate the contribution of microbeads to microplastic pollution relative to other sources (e.g., plastic litter and debris) and pathways (e.g., stormwater) of discharge.
In 2016 The Santa Clara Valley Water District and its consultants conducted a watershed wide survey to characterize the distribution and abundance of the aquatic resources within the Lower Peninsula watershed wtihin Santa Clara County, CA based on available GIS data, and to assess the overall ecological condition of streams within the watershed based on a statistically based, random sample design and the California Rapid Assessment Method for streams (CRAM).
In 2015 The Santa Clara Valley Water District and it's consultants conducted a watershed wide survey to characterize the distribution and abundance of the aquatic resources within the upper Pajaro River watershed wtihin Santa Clara County, CA based on available GIS datasets, and to assess the overall ecological condition of streams within the watershed based on a statistically based random sample design and the California Rapid Assessment Method for streams (CRAM).
This report describes baseline information about the amount and distribution of aquatic resources, and evaluates the overall ecological conditions of streams using the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM), for the West Valley watershed in Santa Clara County; consisting of Sunnyvale East and West Channels, Calabazas Creek, San Tomas Aquino and Saratoga creeks, and many smaller tributaries.