A January 2021 story by the Capital News Service headlined “Microplastics threaten Great Lakes, and not just the water” was one of the first I have seen recently about the threat of microplastics to our precious fresh waters. However, microplastics have been reported in the Great Lakes for more than 15 years. Researchers started to get interested in microplastics around 2012, but outside the scientific community, microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes hasn’t gained much interest. How much has been done to reduce microplastics? How much has been done to make the general public aware of this serious and growing threat?
The Great Lakes face many challenges. Some are well-known, such as Asian carp, but some are almost invisible, such as microplastics. Small plastic detritus, termed “microplastics” or “microfibers,” are a widespread contaminant in aquatic ecosystems including the Great Lakes. Research reported in Environmental Science and Technology suggests that marine microplastic debris can have a negative impact upon zooplankton function and health.
News has just broken that drinking water wells in East Bay Township, just a few blocks from Traverse City’s eastern edge and just across US-31 from East Grand Traverse Bay, may be contaminated by PFAS — what is being called, the “forever chemical.” My well. My neighbors’ wells. Our wells… our water… the water that many in my neighborhood use for drinking and cooking; the water that our households consume, writes FLOW special contributor Holly Wright.
The COVID-19 pandemic that has so overwhelmed us all for these past many months has made me draw inward, wanting to protect the waters and all things of natural beauty just for myself, writes FLOW supporter and author Jerry Beasley in his essay, “A Matter of Reverence.”
Face masks, gloves, eye protection, and other forms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) have become a part of our daily life during the Coronavirus pandemic. But as states have reopened and people ventured outside more, their improper disposal of this protective gear has threatened the environment.
By Dave Long Plastic bottles, bags, straws, and packaging are often the focus for reducing plastics in Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes. But there’s a smaller, more ubiquitous type of plastic pollution, called microfibers—fibers less than 5 millimeters in length—that may pose a bigger threat and may be harder to solve. Many people are… Read more »
As we become increasingly aware of the crisis surrounding plastics in the environment, we need to increase research on the health effects of the microplastics we ingest each year. Tiny pieces of microplastic ranging from 5 millimeters down to 100 nanometers in diameter are showing up in oceans, lakes, and rivers and being entering the food chain as aquatic and marine organisms consume them.
Significant volumes of plastics and Microplastics enter the Great Lakes every year, and they are not going away. The United States and Canada together discard 22 million pounds of plastic into the waters of the Great Lakes each year.
Many of our Michigan beaches are sullied by refuse and littered with food wrappers, soggy cigarette butts, and small plastic pieces of mysterious origin. Whether littered on-site or carried from elsewhere in the watershed, unsanitary garbage on our coasts puts-off beach-goers and infringes upon the public’s right to enjoy the shoreline—a great Michigan summertime tradition that’s protected by the public trust doctrine.
A growing movement is afoot here in the Great Lakes – a broadening recognition and fierce determination to tackle the ubiquity of single-use plastics in our waters. Just in our small neck of the woods in northern Michigan, a number of nonprofit groups, concerned citizens, and conservation districts are seizing the moment and starting conversations… Read more »