S.C. Sea Grant Consortium

Healthy Coastal Ecosystems Research Projects

Urban stormwater runoff as a source of microplastic and tire wear particles in coastal waterways: transport, cumulative impacts to biota, and mitigation

Peter van den Hurk, Clemson University, John E. Weinstein, The Citadel, and Barbara Beckingham, College of Charleston

Previous work by Consortium researchers showed black microplastic particles are common in the Charleston Harbor, the majority of the particles result from tire wear on highways, and black microplastic particles can have adverse effects on some estuarine organisms. This research takes that line of research forward to determine the role of stormwater runoff as a pathway for microplastics into coastal waterways.

Researchers will examine microplastics and tire debris in storm-sewer catch basins, measure the contribution of stormwater ponds in the movement of microplastics and how that contribution could be minimized, and further study the long-term responses of estuarine organisms to microplastic exposure. The researchers believe understanding how microplastics reach coastal waters is critical to informing policy and management decisions to minimize the environmental and economic impacts of this type of debris.