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Small-Size Microplastics in Urban Stormwater Runoff are Efficiently Trapped in a Bioretention Cell

  • Kelsey Smyth
    Kelsey Smyth
    Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering, University of Toronto, 35 St. George Street, Toronto M5S 1A4, ON, Canada
    More by Kelsey Smyth
  • Shuyao Tan
    Shuyao Tan
    Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, 200 College Street, Toronto M5S 3E5, ON, Canada
    More by Shuyao Tan
  • Tim Van Seters
    Tim Van Seters
    Toronto Region Conservation Authority, 101 Exchange Avenue, Concord L4K 5R6, ON, Canada
  • Johnny Gasperi
    Johnny Gasperi
    Laboratoire Eau et Environnement, Université Gustave Eiffel, All. des Ponts et Chaussées, Bouguenais 44340, France
  • Rachid Dris
    Rachid Dris
    Laboratoire Eau Environnement Systèmes Urbaines, Université Paris-Est Créteil, 61 Avenue du Gal de Gaulle, Créteil 94010, France
    More by Rachid Dris
  • Jennifer Drake
    Jennifer Drake
    Civil and Environmental Engineering, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa K1S 5B6, ON, Canada
  • , and 
  • Elodie Passeport*
    Elodie Passeport
    Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering, University of Toronto, 35 St. George Street, Toronto M5S 1A4, ON, Canada
    Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto, 200 College Street, Toronto M5S 3E5, ON, Canada
    *Email: [email protected]
Cite this: ACS EST Water 2024, XXXX, XXX, XXX-XXX
Publication Date (Web):May 3, 2024
https://doi.org/10.1021/acsestwater.4c00037
© 2024 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract

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    As they decrease in size, microplastics pose increasing environmental and health risks. Previous work showed that bioretention cells, a type of low impact development (LID), are effective at removing microplastics greater than approximately 100 μm from urban stormwater runoff. This two-year field study investigates whether bioretention cells provide similar benefits by removing microplastics as small as 25 μm in size from urban stormwater. The use of automated μFTIR mapping allowed for the analysis of smaller microplastics, less than 100 μm, which, until recently, have rarely been analyzed in stormwater due to the difficulty of their identification. A 71% concentration decrease was observed in the bioretention cell. In this 25–100 μm size range, the median microplastic concentrations were 227 microplastics/L in the stormwater (i.e., the bioretention inlet) and 66.5 microplastics/L at the outlet. The most prevalent synthetic polymers were polypropylene and polyethylene. Rubber and fibers were not analyzed due to method limitations. No correlations between hydrologic characteristics and microplastic quantities were observed, highlighting that other factors are likely involved in the fate and transport of microplastics in stormwater, like weather-induced particle fragmentation. These results demonstrate that this filtration-based LID system continues to provide effective microplastic removal down to 25 μm.

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