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Scientific article
Open access
English

Impact of a nanofiltration system on microplastic contamination in Geneva groundwater (Switzerland)

Publication date2024-01-23
First online date2024-01-23
Abstract

Microplastics (MPs) have been observed in the oceans, fresh waters, karstic water and remote water bodies. However, little is known on groundwater contamination, which is a natural resource of utmost importance for millions of people and is often perceived as a reliable source of water. Moreover, nanofiltration is perceived as a reliable technology to remove contaminants from water. In this study, large sample volumes of a silty-sandy gravel aquifer and the corresponding nanofiltered water were analysed for the presence of MPs (> 20 µm) using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microscopy. Concentration in ground water was 8 ± 7 MPs/m 3 and increased to 36 ± 11 MPs/m 3 in nanofiltered water. All MPs had a maximum Ferret diameter lower than 500 µm. Size distribution of MPs was towards the small size class (20–50 µm). In groundwater, 33% of MPs were detected in the smallest size class (20–50 µm) and 67% in the 50–100-µm-size class. In comparison, around 52% of MPs in nanofiltered water were observed in the 20–50 µm size class. Moreover, 33% of the MPs observed in nanofiltered water were in the 50–100 µm size class and 15% in the 100–500-µm-size class. From a chemical point of view, different plastic polymers were identified in groundwater and in nanofiltered water, such as polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene (vinyl acetate) copolymer (EVA), polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and other polymer materials (such as polystyrene-based copolymers, vinyl-based copolymers). Fibres were observed in all samples, but only a small number of fibres (near 1%) were identified as PP synthetic fibres in nanofiltered water. Furthermore, no clear difference of fibre concentrations was observed between groundwater (232 ± 127 fibres/m 3 ) and nanofiltered water (247 ± 118 fibres/m 3 ). Groundwater had extremely low levels of microplastics, and although the nanofiltration effectively removes suspended particulate matter, it slightly contaminates the filtered water with MPs.

eng
Keywords
  • Fibres
  • Groundwater
  • Infrared microscopy
  • Microplastics
  • Nanofiltration
  • Suspended particulate matter
Citation (ISO format)
NEGRETE VELASCO, Angel De Jésus et al. Impact of a nanofiltration system on microplastic contamination in Geneva groundwater (Switzerland). In: Environmental science and pollution research international, 2024. doi: 10.1007/s11356-024-31940-y
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Article (Published version)
Identifiers
ISSN of the journal0944-1344
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