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Article

Are Rural and Small Community Aerated Wastewater Stabilization Ponds a Neglected Source of Microplastic Pollution?

1
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS 38677, USA
2
South China Institute of Environmental Science, Huangpu District, Guangzhou 510530, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paolo Tremolada
Water 2021, 13(20), 2833; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202833
Received: 14 September 2021 / Revised: 2 October 2021 / Accepted: 4 October 2021 / Published: 12 October 2021
Wastewater treatment systems collect and treat sewage that includes microplastics (MPs). However, we are not aware of any studies on the occurrence and distribution of MPs in wastewater stabilization ponds (WSPs), which serve small communities worldwide. Here, we characterized MPs (~45 µm–5 mm) in an aerated WSP serving ~500 houses and an adjacent lake. Putative MPs were most abundant in duckweed (Lemna minor) and sludge (75 ± 22 and 12.8 ± 3.1 particles/g, respectively: ±1 standard deviation (SD), n = 6, dry weight). In the water, average concentrations (particles/L ± 1 SD, n = 6) were highest in the pond (4.1 ± 0.6), followed by effluent (3.9 ± 0.5) and the lake (2.6 ± 0.6). Over 20 types of MPs were identified in each different compartment, with the distribution varying somewhat between the water, sludge, and duckweed. Polyester and polyethylene were the predominant types, followed by polyethylene terephthalate, polyacrylate, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, and others. Morphologies consisted of fibers (62–71%), fragments (28–37%), and beads (1–6%). High-density polymers were more frequently found in sludge. Potential sources of the MPs include synthetic textiles from laundry and other plastics washed down household drains. Overall, with ~786,000 MPs/day released in the pond effluent and with duckweed a source of food for waterfowl, we demonstrate that WSPs can be point sources of MPs to both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and thus deserve further scrutiny. View Full-Text
Keywords: plastic pollution; wastewater stabilization pond; wastewater; duckweed; freshwater plastic pollution; wastewater stabilization pond; wastewater; duckweed; freshwater
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gao, Z.; Cizdziel, J.V.; Wontor, K.; Lu, H. Are Rural and Small Community Aerated Wastewater Stabilization Ponds a Neglected Source of Microplastic Pollution? Water 2021, 13, 2833. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202833

AMA Style

Gao Z, Cizdziel JV, Wontor K, Lu H. Are Rural and Small Community Aerated Wastewater Stabilization Ponds a Neglected Source of Microplastic Pollution? Water. 2021; 13(20):2833. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202833

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gao, Zhiqiang, James V. Cizdziel, Kendall Wontor, and Haitao Lu. 2021. "Are Rural and Small Community Aerated Wastewater Stabilization Ponds a Neglected Source of Microplastic Pollution?" Water 13, no. 20: 2833. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202833

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