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Title: Water or sediment? Assessing seasonal microplastic accumulation from wastewater treatment works.
Authors: Dalu, Tatenda.
Ngomane, Nelisiwe .
Dondofema, Farai.
Cuthbert, Ross N.
University of Mpumalanga
University of Mpumalanga
University of Venda
Queen’s University Belfast
Keywords: Aquatic ecosystem.;Environmental change.;Microplastics.;Plastic pollution.;Rivers.;Wastewater treatment work.
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: IWA
Abstract: Microplastics have become a major environmental concern around the world due to their potential impact on ecosystem functioning and biota. Microplastics enter freshwater systems through a variety of sources, with wastewater treatment work discharges being the most important source. The study aimed to determine the seasonal (i.e., hot–wet, cool–dry) variation in water and sediment microplastic abundances up- and down-stream of wastewater treatment works across two subtropical river systems (i.e., Crocodile and Luvuvhu) in South Africa. Overall, we found that microplastic type and distribution often did not show clear seasonal and site differences in water, hence microplastics were widespread across the studied systems and microplastic concentrations did not relate clearly to wastewater treatment works. This was further indicated by microplastic risk assessments which showed high pollution loads upstream. However, there were significant differences in sediment microplastic loads across seasons, indicating a source-sink effect towards the hot-wet season. The non-metric multidimensional scaling ordination based on microplastic densities for water and sediment discriminated slightly among systems, with major overlaps across the different locations and seasons. As a result, the current research indicates that seasonal context influences differences in microplastic concentrations, with the hot–wet season being associated with the high pollution loads, particularly within the sediments where this was more pronounced indicating the sink-source effect which is linked to sediments and not water.
Description: Published version
DOI: 10.2166/h2oj.2023.017
Appears in Collections:Journal articles

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