PORTLAND, Ore. – Microplastic contamination was found in all 30 waterways in Oregon. The contamination ranged from the rivers that flow through major urban centers to the most remote and valuable waterways of the state, such as Wallowa Lake or Crater Lake. A Monday report by an environmental group was published.
These findings are presented in a new report. A Survey of Oregon’s Waterways: Microplastics in OregonEnvironment Oregon Research & Policy Center released the following Monday in a news release. The organization used a methodology developed under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Celeste Meiffren Swango, state director at Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center, stated that the results of this study should alarm Oregonians who love their state’s rivers & lakes. “The alarming amount of microplastics found in our study likely means that no stream, lake, or river is safe from this growing contaminant.”
All 30 waterways tested positive for microplastic contamination. This included popular places like the Willamette River and John Day Rivers, Lake Billy Chinook, Waldo Lake, and Lake Billy Chinook.
Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that measure less than 5 mm in diameter. This is smaller than a grain or rice grain.
Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center staff collected water samples from residents across Oregon as part of the citizen science project to detect plastic pollution in local waterways. The results and photos of the sampling can be found here. This map contains the following information:. The approximate location of samples taken is tagged.
Americans produce more than 35 million tons annually of plastic waste, and less than 10% of it is recycled. The rest is either litter or sent to incinerators or landfills where it will release microplastics which can be carried into our environment by wind and rain.
Microfibers are a type of plastic that can be found in all waterways. They are made from textiles and are shed by normal wear and tear and routine machine washing. These pollutants are almost impossible to filter out by water treatment plants.
River and beach cleanups and conservation efforts help reduce visible forms of litter and pollution. However, microplastics are small enough to travel from their source to waterways far and near, carrying contaminants and chemicals that can reach humans and animals up the food chain.
“This work highlights that plastic pollution solutions must be addressed both in our state through a divergence from single-use plastics, and at the federal level by innovation and limiting plastic production,” stated Charlie Plybon Policy Manager at Surfrider Foundation. “This is a bigger problem in Oregon and the US than we would like to admit, and these images from some of our most iconic waterways in the State should inspire us to take action.”
The report provides a broad range policy options to address this problem. This includes phasing-out single-use plastic foodware such as polystyrene foam, and updating rules to allow Oregonians bring their own reusable containers or produce bags to grocery shops and restaurants.
Meiffren Swango stated that there is no one-size fits all solution to prevent microplastics from reaching our waterways. “But this should serve as a wakeup call to local, state, and national leaders. Our plastic pollution problem is growing and it’s impacting even the most precious places. We need to do everything possible to move beyond plastic before its too late.”
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Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center works to protect our air, water, and open spaces. We research problems, create solutions, educate the public, and help decision-makers to make the public’s voices heard in local, state, and national debates about the quality of the environment and our lives. Visit www.earthlink.com to learn more. https://environmentoregoncenter.org/.