GREENFIELD — The Connecticut River Conservancy has been awarded $11,250 for an analysis program studying microplastics in the Connecticut River Watershed, as part of a recent round of grants from the Baker-Polito Administration.
Plastic debris in aquatic environments is a contaminant of emerging concern, and the study will help to better understand the presence, composition or sources of microplastics in Massachusetts rivers. The Connecticut River Conservancy’s project will have multiple opportunities for public outreach and engagement, as well as expansion to other watersheds in Massachusetts.
“While this has been done in oceans, this is the first time in Massachusetts we’re really looking at an inland water body,” state Undersecretary of Environment Affairs Daniel Sieger said in a press release about the grant award. “This will continue to protect the Connecticut River as a resource for everyone.”
The project is partially funded by the Conservation Law Foundation, as well as the Massachusetts Environmental Trust through money collected from sales of three environmentally themed specialty license plates: the Right Whale and Roseate Terns Plate, the Leaping Brook Trout Plate and the Blackstone Valley Mill Plate.
Sieger said the Connecticut River Conservancy may choose to work with citizens, students or other groups to take samples from the river for analysis. The Connecticut River Conservancy works with partners across four states to advocate for local rivers, and to bring people together to prevent pollution, improve habitat and promote enjoyment of the Connecticut River and its tributary streams.
Andy Fisk, executive director of the Connecticut River Conservancy, said the organization is currently building the design plan for the study. This includes determining where to take samples from in order to best learn how microplastics are affecting our waterways. The procedure will see staff members and volunteers collect water samples and bring them back to the lab for visual observation.
“The study will help understand how to solve pollution problems as far upstream as we can,” Fisk said.
The study, Fisk continued, will provide further baseline information to answer questions about the effect of pollution and microplastics that remain when plastic bags and bottles degrade. He said this “threads all the way back to the bigger policy questions” regarding pollution and sustainability. To ultimately stop pollution, Fisk said we need to improve storm drain infrastructure, stop littering and replace plastics with better products.
In total, the Baker-Polito Administration announced $579,253 in grants to 11 projects for aquatic ecosystem restoration and enhancement totaling $250,822, and five projects for marine mammal and sea turtle conservation totaling $328,431. According to the press release, all 16 projects across Massachusetts aim to restore and improve aquatic habitat, rivers and watersheds, and protect endangered marine animals.Zack DeLuca can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4579.