The Hidden Plague of Lake Erie
If you don't know what microplastics are or are unsure of what exactly a microplastic is, it is a piece of plastic that is 5 millimeters or smaller in size. Microplastics come from a large variety of sources such as gaseous emissions from burning plastics, vehicle tires, and larger pieces of plastic as they are weathered by the sun, wind, and rain. These tiny particles are then blown away by the wind or carried by rainwater into bodies of water. Microplastics are found in every natural setting such as the air, water, and soil.
Walnut Creek Video.mov from Fish Gods on Vimeo.
Microplastics may not seem like a problem because of their small size, but they can accumulate by the billions within water bodies. In addition, microplastics can attract other pollutants within the water and poison organisms that accidentally ingest them. These particles will also bioaccumulate within an ecosystem. For example, a minnow that has eaten zooplankton containing microplastics will then become a concentrated source of these plastics. As you move to the top of the food chain, you can observe a Northern Pike's fat cells to be loaded with very high levels of plastics and toxins. Being at the top of the food chain, humans ingest thousands of microplastics a year and the numbers will only get higher.
According to studies done by Dr. Sherri Mason of Penn State Behrend, there are 6.45 metric tons of microplastics floating within Lake Erie. Lake Erie is the second highest Great Lake in regard to microplastic concentrations and contains roughly 45,000 particles per square kilometer.
Fish Gods’ environmental coordinator Jesse Doubet sampled water from the mouth of Walnut Creek/Lake Erie for the first Fish Gods environmental awareness project. After analysis of the samples, Jesse found an abundance of multi-colored fibers and microplastic films within the waters, neither of which are visible to the naked eye. Included are pictures taken of the fibers and film under a microscope.
One Clean Earth Bag of plastic pollution removed from our waters before it degrades can prevent millions of plastic particles from entering our waters. Collectively, we can be the change needed to slow down the microplastic plague threatening our water systems. Our future is dependent on us to make a difference in our environment before we pollute our waters beyond repair.