Microplastic shards plague every Colorado river. Here’s where, and how they get there. 

New study samples 16 waterways and finds shredded plastic in every one. Is help on the way?

Michael Booth
The Colorado Sun
Danny Katz, left, CoPIRG Foundation executive director and Lexi Kilbane, Environment Colorado intern from the University of Denver, stand at the waterÕs edge of the South Platte River in Confluence Park, to discuss a new report from the research they have performed finding micro plastics in 100% of the water they tested in sixteen different sites. The two demonstrate their sample collection-using a simple mason jar.
Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun

Lexi Kilbane knew, in a vague, nonscientific way, that plastic pollution was a growing problem, and that tiny shards of plastics were showing up everywhere a microscope might look. 

But the magnitude of the contamination finally hit home after she dipped a water testing kit into a City Park lake, right near her house, and filtered the sample. Fibers from shredded tarps, jackets and carpet popped into view, in a dystopian kaleidoscope. 

“There’s no mistaking that for a natural particle,” said Kilbane, a University of Denver graduate student and microplastics project manager for Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center. 

“Unless you’re a fish, of course,” Kilbane added. “It was stunning that someone like me, without any sort of background in this, could plainly see the issue in front of my eyes.” 

CoPIRG and partners sampled water in 16 Colorado locations from Monument Creek to the Arkansas and South Platte Rivers, and found microplastics in all samples.
Provided by CoPIRG

Using national protocols for detecting microplastics, Kilbane and the nonprofit advocacy group CoPIRG sampled 16 waterways in Colorado and found the plastics pollution in every one. They are sharing results of their study with national sampling networks, and urging Colorado policymakers to double down on recent efforts to slow use of plastics that deteriorate into dangerous particles but never biodegrade. 

Read the full story at The Colorado Sun.

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