Trawling for mircroplastics
Pictured (left to right) are: PEP members Don Wachsmuth and Kaetlyn Jackson (who applied for the grant and spearheaded the project) with trustee and PEP chair Joseph Keyes.

Photo courtesy of PEP

Trawling for mircroplastics

Story By: NICOLE FUENTES
8/15/2019


PEP committee receives equipment to test local waterways for microplastics

The Protecting the Environment in Patchogue committee recently applied for and received a grant to borrow a manta trawl through the EPA Region 2 Citizen Science Water Monitoring Equipment Loan Program, allowing them to use the equipment to scan the river and bay this summer and fall.

Plastics, according to committee chair and village trustee Joseph Keyes, do not decompose but rather break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually ending up in our fish and shellfish and further adding unwanted chemicals into our food.

To combat this issue, PEP has partnered with St. Joseph’s College and Stony Brook University to also borrow a zooplankton net, a finer mesh to pull along with the manta trawl. Not only will the study identify microplastics in the Patchogue Lake, Patchogue River and the Great South Bay, it will also aid in determining which collection method will be more useful to future researchers.
The first trawl was conducted on July 28; six jars of water were collected as well as suspended materials from the Patchogue River, which will eventually be tested. 

PEP member and Fire Island National Seashore parks planner Kaetlyn Jackson, heading the experiment, explained that nothing of the kind has been done before in the area. Samples will be taken and compared to local studies done on the Hudson River and in New Jersey. 

To conduct the test, the nets are placed in the water for 15 minutes as the boat travels very slowly. Surveys will be conducted once a month through October when the weather is good. Once completed, the samples will be tested at St. Joe’s labs by project supporter Dr. Konstantinos Rountos and his students to quantify the amount of plastics in the waters. Then, an education component will be shared with the community.

“Our goal is to be able to provide helpful educational material to our community, to bring an even greater awareness to the value and importance of keeping plastics and other debris out of our waterways and to help Protect the Environment in Patchogue,” Keyes said 

What is a manta trawl?

The trawl is basically a net that is pulled behind a boat to collect debris, specifically microplastics.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic that have broken down over time and eventually make their way into our waterways and food chain.