Water samples collected from rivers across Greater Manchester in new survey investigating microplastic contamination

The first set of water samples have been collected as part of a two-year study of microplastic contamination in rivers across Greater Manchester.

The initial samples were taken April and are the first of three sampling campaigns scheduled for spring, summer and winter 2022.  A total of 12 samples were taken along the river Irk, Medlock and Roch in the north and east of Greater Manchester.  Sampling sites included rural locations upstream of major centres of population, wastewater treatment works and urban locations within the three catchments.  In total 72 samples will be taken during normal flow conditions to establish a baseline, and during storm conditions when levels of contamination are expected to be at their highest.

The river water samples, which are being collected by Aqua Enviro Ltd, are taken by courier to a UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK CEH) laboratory in Lancaster for processing where the microplastic content of the water can be quantified.  This will enable UK CEH to construct a microplastic budget for rivers in Greater Manchester, based on an existing flow model and the results of the sampling.

Mark Turner, Natural Course Greater Manchester Team Leader at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority said…

“We are delighted to have been able to commission this study as part of Natural Course Phase 4. The findings will help us to understand and characterise microplastic contamination of rivers in Greater Manchester and help us to build a more comprehensive picture of the water quality pressures faced by rivers across the city region”.

The study is part of the Natural Course project ‘understanding the sources contributing to microplastic contamination of rivers in Greater Manchester (opens new tab), and has been jointly commissioned by  Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Environment Agency and United Utilities.

A bridge with grey railings crosses a river. The bridge pavement is in the foreground, and buildings and greenery in the background. There are tubes running from the sampler to the river. A grey, portable sampler with tubes running into the river, sits on the bridge pavement.

Sampling on a tributary of the River Roch Rochdale
Photo credit AquaEnviro-SUEZ