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Assessing the Seasonal and Storm-Impacted Transport and Biological Fate of Micro- and Nanoplastics Discharged from Wastewater Treatment Facilities into Massachusetts Coastal Waters

Principal Investigators

Scott Gallager, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Jim Churchill, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


The project examines microplastic pollution from anthropogenic sources, focusing on waste water treatment facilities (WWTF) as most likely the dominant sources of microplastics in coastal waters. Because the scale of microplastic pollution from the WWTFs and their distributions after entering the coastal waters has not been studied, the scientists will use field surveys and modeling to provide the first order information. Conducting field measurements seasonally, as well as using instruments installed on a ferry from New Bedford to Cuttyhunk, the researchers will measure microplastics from four wastewater treatment plants with a range of volume and different treatment types. They will then model the microplastic plume with a numerical model, which will provide an assessment of where and when to expect elevated uptake of microplastics by commercially important shellfish. To test the model, the study includes placement of mussels at the modeled predicted hotspots around Buzzards Bay, which will be periodically sampled to measure the microplastic content of their guts.



Project Information

Started: February 2020
Funded under: NOAA Sea Grant biennial call for proposals

Relevant Links

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Gallager Lab at WHOI