Microplastics in UK groundwater and stygobites : protocols for sampling, analysis and pilot study results

Lapworth, D.J. ORCID:; Shockley, D.J.. 2022 Microplastics in UK groundwater and stygobites : protocols for sampling, analysis and pilot study results. Nottingham, UK, British Geological Survey, 26pp. (OR/22/015) (Unpublished)

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A protocol for groundwater and stygobite microplastic (MP) sampling and analysis was developed and tested based on adapting established methods for drinking water sources. This study was undertaken to develop a protocol for groundwater that could be used for wider assessments of MP in groundwater sources in the UK and provide early evidence on the type and numbers of MP in groundwater sources and recommendations for future work on this topic. A total of 11 groundwater samples from 8 groundwater sources and a method blank were collected, processed and analysed for MP by Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Two stygobite samples and a method blank were also sampled and processed by FTIR. A total of nine MP compositions were analysed for by FTIR. Overall low numbers of MPs were detected in groundwaters, with the highest numbers being detected from pumped sources within the Thames gravels (up to 18 MPs) compared to the pumped Chalk (up to 5 MPs). After blank correction, a total of 40 MP particles were found across all samples using FTIR. A single polypropylene (PP) particle was found in the method blank. Overall, a very small proportion of the particles detected by FTIR were microplastics. Of those detected as MP the largest detected was 183 μm, 28% of particles were <50 μm, 78% <100 μm and 88% <150 μm. PP dominated the polymer composition of MPs found in samples collected from boreholes (80%), four other polymers were also detected including polyethylene (PE - 8%), polystyrene (PS - 5%) and acrylate, polycarbonates and artificial cellulose all ≤ 3%. No MP were detected above the method blank for stygobites samples. Two PP MPs were detected in the stygobite method blank and two PP MPs detected in one of the stygobite samples. The methodologies developed and tested are described in detail in this report and were adapted from existing methods previously used to sample treated drinking water sources and are highly suited to sampling pumped groundwater sources with low turbidity for MPs. The method was suitable for collecting large groundwaters samples and it was possible to filter up to 100 L in the field from the majority of sources within a relatively short time period (i.e. 1h). It would be possible to filter 2 or 3 times this volume in the field from many sites without the filter clogging, based on the small sub-sample used in this pilot study.

Item Type: Publication - Report
Funders/Sponsors: British Geological Survey
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: This item has been internally reviewed, but not externally peer-reviewed.
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
Date made live: 26 May 2022 16:04 +0 (UTC)

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