*WINNER* Microplastics Sampling and Identification in Wastewater Treatment Plants around Middle Tennessee
Recent research has shown that microplastics (MPs) are present ubiquitously in natural and drinking water systems. One of the possible sources of MPs are municipal wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs). Because of their key role in maintaining public health, WWTPs can give insight into how much MPs are being disposed by human activities, and if existing treatment plants can process these emerging pollutants. The goal of the research study was to address the inconsistencies present in other research methodologies by determining the efficacies of collection and preparation methods for MPs in wastewater. In order to accomplish this, samples were collected via grab, composite, and pump filtration from two WWTPs in middle Tennessee to be processed and analyzed. The facilities chosen for this study were selected to account for variables such as population density, hydraulic capacity, treatment processes, and receiving streams where wastewater effluent is discharged. Through experimentation, this study will process the samples using hydrogen peroxide oxidation and zinc chloride density separation. The future outcomes from analysis of the collected and processed samples using epifluorescence microscopy and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to quantify and identify MPs will give results to the adequacy of research methodologies for the overall goal of understanding the fate of MPs in WWTPs.