MAYVILLE – Chautauqua Lake is participating in an international study to look at the impact that plastics have on the environment.
Plastics in the environment are typically broken down into ever-smaller pieces, rather than into their component molecules, by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light through a process known as photodegradation. Microplastics are plastic pieces generally smaller than 5 mm that often originate from cosmetic sources such as exfoliating face wash or toothpaste but also from synthetic clothing or improperly discarded plastic products.
Whenever microplastic-containing personal-care products are used, thousands of microplastic particles travel down the drain, through water treatment systems, and out to our local waterways. From there they can have a negative impact on a wide variety of species, from fish to birds and land animals that rely on the fish to survive.
Much of the existing science on aquatic plastic pollution has focused on our oceans, but that is now evolving to include studies of freshwater ecosystems as well. In fact, Fredonia State professor Dr. Sherri Mason is on the forefront of freshwater studies focused on the Great Lakes. During her studies, Dr. Mason found alarmingly high numbers of microplastics in the Great Lakes whereby plastics were found in the gastrointestinal tracts of every fish species that was sampled.
Another SUNY Fredonia professor – Dr. Courtney Wigdahl-Perry – was recently contacted by international colleagues about conducting microplastics sampling on Chautauqua Lake, one of only a handful of North American sites to be included in a larger European study of microplastics in inland lakes.
Staff from the Chautauqua Lake & Watershed Management Alliance (Alliance) and the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy (CWC), in coordination with Dr. Wigdahl-Perry, collected samples from both lake basins earlier this week.
“It is very exciting to be included in this international study which will serve to create baseline knowledge of microplastic levels in Chautauqua Lake,” said Erin Brickley, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Chautauqua County was one of the leading municipalities that banned sales of cosmetic products containing microbeads which officially went into effect February 2016 so the timing of this study coincides nicely.”
For more information regarding the microplastic sampling, please contact Erin Brickley at (716) 661-8918.