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    Microplastics pervasive in waters adjacent to Delaware River’s population centers

    Delaware River Basin Commission report advances understanding of microplastics in the river’s tidal zones

    The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) recently announced the release of a technical report, “Reducing Microplastics in the Delaware River Estuary.”

    “The DRBC’s mission includes protecting and improving water quality in the Delaware River Basin for over 13 million people in four states,” DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini said. “This study focuses on water quality in the Delaware River near some of the Basin’s most dense population centers to better understand the distribution and concentration of microplastics within this part of our Basin.” 

    The Commission’s research, summarized in the report, sought to characterize the distribution of microplastics in the upper portion of the Delaware River estuary, or tidal reach, through monitoring and modeling, and to increase public awareness of the issues associated with microplastics. The study focused on the Delaware River Basin between Trenton, NJ, and the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal. Samples were collected at 15 sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. 

    “I applaud the Delaware River Basin Commission’s important work to manage our shared water resources and to better understand emerging issues like microplastics, which directly impact communities throughout the Delaware Valley,” said Congressman Brendan F. Boyle (PA-02).

    Jacob Bransky, the DRBC’s Aquatic Biologist and study lead, noted, “We set out to better quantify the nature and extent of microplastic pollution, including the role of tributaries. Our research, which revealed microplastics at all 15 sampling locations in three states, provides a vital first step in better understanding and managing this contaminant of emerging concern.”

    Julie Slavet, Executive Director of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership noted, “Information on microplastic concentrations can be used by local watershed groups like TTF to target cleanup efforts in high-plastic watersheds like Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Creek. Reducing and removing plastics before they break down limits microplastics entering our shared waterways and public water supplies and supports fish and wildlife.” 

    “We were grateful to partner with the Commission because its study embodies the mission of the Institute for Earth Observations at Palmyra Cove, shared experiences and innovative collaboration. We know the Delaware River is highly developed on both sides, and this research reinforces the value of multi-state coordination,” said John Moore, Palmyra Cove Nature Park’s Executive Director.

    “Studies and cross-partnership collaborations like this one are so important in better understanding how we can reduce plastics and microplastics in the Delaware River. DRBC’s study will guide Riverfront North Partnership and our community volunteers in our shoreline cleanup efforts and will help protect our water sources here in Philadelphia,” said Stephanie Phillips, Executive Director, Riverfront North Partnership.

    The DRBC developed an interactive map of the results, available directly at https://rpubs.com/jwb5096/860798. Read the full report and related information at https://www.nj.gov/drbc/programs/quality/microplastics.html.

    The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency created in 1961 by concurrent compact legislation, marking the first time that the federal government and a group of states joined together as equal partners in a river basin planning, development and regulatory agency. The five Commission members are the governors of the Basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government.

    The research was funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund. 

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