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Plastics in Great Lakes should trouble everyone

A pair of recent studies cited in a Mining Journal story Monday confirmed what many fisherman and women and untold others enjoying the water have known for years: There is a heck of a lot of plastic floating around in the Great Lakes and the watersheds that feed it.

How much and where is it coming from? Those are among the questions researchers with U.S. Geological Survey offices in Wisconsin hope to answer.

One effort, based at the USGS’s Wisconsin Water Science Center, categorized the plastic as beads, fragments, foams or fibers.

Fragments are broken pieces of larger plastics, foams are filmy materials like bags and fibers include fishing line, rope and other fine materials.

Fiber reportedly was the most common, research found.

A second, separate study is looking at the Milwaukee Harbor area. Researchers are sampling sediment and water from the confluence of the Kinnickinnic, Menominee and Milwaukee rivers. They are also sampling from the inner and outer Milwaukee Harbor area.

The overall goal is to establish baseline data upon which good quality decisions can be made by legislators and others.

Here’s something that suggests the obvious: Fish and wildlife that ingest plastic garbage – and make no mistake, that’s what a great deal of this material is – will be adversely impacted. It doesn’t take someone with a Ph.D next to their name to figure that out.

All of us need to be careful with plastics, that will not degrade, even over many, many years.

The Great Lakes and its watersheds are a legacy all of us must work to protect.

Mining Journal (Marquette)

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