Detailed monitoring of microplastic particles in an urban water course facilitated by a novel, powerful detection method

Wednesday, June 28, 2017 2:30 pm - 3:30 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

In this Water Institute seminar, professor Sascha Oswald from the University of  Potsdam's Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences presents, "Detailed monitoring of microplastic particles in an urban water course facilitated by a novel, powerful detection method - an approach for identifying dynamic inputs of microplastics."

Coffee and refreshments will be provided. 

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Key topics covered

Not only macro-sized plastic debris are of concern in marine environments but also micro-sized plastic particles. They are also receiving increasing interest in freshwater bodies, as substantial loads are transferred not only towards the oceans but they are also directly affecting lakes and rivers and their ecosystems. In these systems, urban areas seem to play a major role and potentially emit a diverse range of microplastic particles from dynamic anthropogenic sources. Investigations have so far have been limited by time-consuming detection methods required for detection of microplastic particles. Making use of a novel and powerful detection method based on hyperspectral imaging of water samples taken, we have been able to observe microplastics occurring along a major urban waterway. We were not only able to detect microplastic particle concentrations, but also obtain information on plastic type and particle size. The results show significant increases in microplastic particle concentrations i) downstream of the urban area, ii) locally by the most upstream wastewater treatment plant, and iii) also by precipitation events. Investigations have recently been extended to another water course and first investigations of groundwater wells close to it, where suited sampling strategies still have to be developed.

Speaker bio

Coming from an environmental physics background at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Sascha Oswald moved into hydrogeology research for his PhD at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. During the following years he worked in Switzerland, UK and Germany as consultant or researcher, and extended his research topics to include soil hydrology. He is currently a professor at the University of Potsdam and leads a group working on subsurface hydrology with links to surface hydrology at the Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences. His group works on a broad range of topics from groundwater modelling and remediation approaches via large-scale soil moisture dynamics to laboratory imaging methods of flow and transport processes. A recent prominent focus is on groundwater-surface water interaction and transfer and turn-over of pollutants at this interface.