Study: Pa. waterways are filled with harmful microplastics | Friday Morning Coffee

March 5, 2021 7:02 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Waterways across Pennsylvania, from Lake Erie and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers to the Delaware River in southeastern Pennsylvania are filled with microplastics, tiny contaminants that are smaller than a grain of rice that can carry harmful chemicals up through the food chain to wildlife and humans alike, a new report has found.

The contaminants were found in 53 waterways across the state that were tested by the Philadelphia-based PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, using methodology development the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The samples from all 53 waterways had at least one type of contamination in them, researchers found, prompting them to warn “the results of this study should set off alarms for all Pennsylvanians who love our state’s rivers and streams.”

“The staggering amount of microplastics we found likely means that no river, lake, or stream is safe from this increasingly common contaminant,” Faran Savitz, a conservation associate for the research group said in a statement.

(Image via Flickr Commons)

Americans generate a staggering amount of plastic waste – more than 35 million tons a year, according to the report.

Of that, less than 10 percent is recycled, which means the rest ends up as litter, or gets sent to incinerators, where they release microplastics that are carried away by the wind and rain, according to the report.

There also are microfibers, a type of plastic that comes from textiles that are shed through normal wear-and-tear and by doing the laundry, the study noted. Those also are carried into waterways, because it’s nearly impossible for them to be filtered out at water treatment plants, the study found.

“If we don’t want plastic in our bodies or in the bodies of fish, whales or birds, we need to stop the millions of tons of plastic that continue entering into the environment every day, every year,” David Velinsky, the vice president of Academy Science at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, said during a virtual news conference announcing the report. ” … the small microscopic bits and pieces of plastic are present throughout our local environment and can pose an impact to wildlife and humans.”

The report calls for a number of reforms and policy recommendations to tackle the issue. That includes approval of legislation now before Congress that would reduce the use of single-use plastic products and packaging and provide for better recycling and environmental measures that would prevent microplastics from getting into the water supply.

“There is no silver bullet solution for the mini-menace of microplastics” PennEnviroment’s Savitz said. “Fundamentally, we need to cut plastic pollution off at the source and change the way society deals with our waste”.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 leads our coverage this morning with a patented Capital-Star explainer laying out how the state plans to vaccinate school employees against COVID-19.

The Berks Family Residential Center, in Berks County, which, until recently, housed detained migrant families and their children, may reopen as a women-only migrant facilityStephen Caruso reports.

Pennsylvania’s 18-member U.S. House delegation split down the middle, 9-9, over a sweeping voting rights bill, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa and your humble newsletter author report.

U.S. Senate panel has advanced the nomination of U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., who is line to become the first Native American to helm the Interior DepartmentCapital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson reports.

On our Commentary Page this morning, an immigrants rights advocate calls on Philadelphia officials to support a crucial deportation defense program. And opinion regular Fletcher McClellan says it’s time for the U.S. Senate to finally retire the filibuster.

En la Estrella-Capital, Pa. alivia los límites de las grandes concentraciones a medida que se cumple un año de la pandemia. Y Pa. la oficina de aplicación de la Ley canina ‘no puede cumplir con su misión,’ dicen los funcionarios estatales, citando la falta de aumentos de fondos.

(Photo via pxHere)

Officials in the Chester-Upland School District near Philadelphia say they’re missing millions of dollars that should have come from the state. The local DA has launched an investigation, the Inquirer reports.
Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops have clarified their stance on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Post-Gazette reports, saying it’s morally acceptable for believers to take any dose that they’re offered. Some dioceses have urged the faithful not to take it, conflicting with the official line from the Vatican.
PennLive runs down the list of 28 construction projects currently under way in Harrisburg.
An Allentown cop has been taken off the beat after pointing a loaded gun at a man’s head during a domestic dispute, the Morning Call reports.
Luzerne County ranks among the top Pennsylvania counties for vaccine distribution, the Citizens-Voice reports.
Gov. Tom Wolf is holding fast on Pennsylvania’s mask mandate, the York Daily Record reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:<br<>

Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway is set to get a major redesign, WHYY-FM reports.
Spotlight PA answers Pa. business owners’ questions 
about the next wave of COVID-19 grants (via WITF-FM).
Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has outstripped supply in Erie CountyGoErie reports.
County commissioners in Washington County have passed a resolution declaring themselves a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary,’ the Observer-Reporter reports.
State Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, says she hasn’t reserved a number of domain names pointing toward a congressional run, PoliticsPA reports.
State lawmakers, some of whom are expecting budget surpluses, are split over the need for federal aid, reports.  
Violence might already be a part of the cost of doing business in American politics, Talking Points Memo suggests.
In a new Quinnipiac University poll, most New Yorkers say they don’t want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to quit, Politico reports.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out in advance to Sean Crampsie, of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, who celebrates on Saturday. Congratulations and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
If you’re a regular reader of this space, then you know that we’re big fans of Canadian producer and deejay Kaytranada. He’s out with a brand new mixtape of just the best vibes. Use this one to power you through your Friday morning. The weekend is closer than you think.

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
It was a double-barreled battle of the siblings
 in Thursday’s match-up between Carolina and Detroit. Carolina’s Jordan Staal squared off against the ‘Wings Mark Staal, while the ‘Canes Andrei Svechnikov faced his older brother, Evgeny. Carolina, powered in part by an Andrei Svechnikov goal, beat Detroit 5-2.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.