Study Shows Lake Erie Plastic Pollution Worse Below Surface

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A new study has found there could be as much as 50 times more plastic sitting at the bottom of Lake Erie than can be seen on the surface.

Plastic pollution in the Great Lakes has been an issue for years and a Ph.D student at Rochester Institute of Technology and has been doing math models on the pollution.

"One important thing about the Great Lakes is that they're a really important source of fresh water," says Juliette Daily. "We drink water that comes out of the lakes. We use it to brew beer and things like that. People have started finding plastics in samples taken from the Great Lakes. So that led us to want to focus in on studying them because it is an important source of water for the region."

Daiy says her study takes a deep dive.

"About 50% of plastic is going to be negatively buoyant. So in the way it's made, it's heavier than the water. So it's going to start to sink. So we wanted to focus on plastic that might not be as obvious," she says. "It's hard to sample at the bottom of the lake. So we wanted to predict how much could be ending up there so we could get a better idea of the full picture."

According to Daily, this is a problem that's very hard to fix.

"Once the plastic is in the lake it's very difficult to get rid of. So what we'd like to be able to do is cut off some of the sources of it going into the lake. Once plastic exists it pretty much exists forever. It doesn't break down. So, ideally, we'd like to try to limit some of the input."

Numbers from Daily's study show an estimated 381-tons of plastic has settled at the bottom of Lake Erie.

 

— With files from AM800's Patty Handysides