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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Transport and fate of microplastics from riverine sediment dredge piles: Implications for disposal.

  • Author(s): Ji, Xiaoliang
  • Ma, Yuan
  • Zeng, Ganning
  • Xu, Xiaoqun
  • Mei, Kun
  • Wang, Zhenfeng
  • Chen, Zheng
  • Dahlgren, Randy
  • Zhang, Minghua
  • Shang, Xu
  • et al.

Microplastics (MPs) are an environmental problem of growing concern. Aquatic sediments are considered as a final sink for MPs, but dredging can remobilize sedimentary MPs into both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Although dredging is globally used for waterway deepening and ecological restoration, the environmental impacts of dredging on MP pollutants has not been previously assessed. In this study, Nile Red staining combined with micro-FTIR methods showed sediments containing high MP concentrations (6060-37610 n/kg·DW) from urban/suburban segments of a plain river network in Southeast China. The dredged sediments were stored in piles on farmlands, whereby MPs were subsequently dispersed to surrounding soils and surface waters while awaiting a permanent disposal option. MP concentrations in the soils surrounding the pile were higher in the dry season (wind dispersion), while MP concentrations in waters downstream of the piles were higher in the wet season (rainfall/runoff erosion). Whether dredge sediments are finally used to fertilize farmland, as fill material for coastal land reclamation or dumped into the ocean, MPs have the potential for remobilization into the environment causing concerns with aquatic food webs, agricultural production and human health. Therefore, disposal of dredge sediments containing MPs requires careful assessment to minimize potential environmental impacts.

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