Microplastic ingested by plankton may greatly impair our oceans’ natural carbon-capturing abilities, according to a new study from NUI Galway.
Marine scientists at the university’s Ryan Institute found that microscopic particles of plastic waste in the world’s oceans are interfering with the food chain that cycles CO2 from the surface to the floor, as The Irish Times reports.
The cycle involves the absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere by algae on the ocean surface via photosynthesis. This algae is a food source for zooplankton such as salps, whose faecal matter sinks to the ocean floor.
As much as half of all CO2 produced by humans over the last 200 years has been captured at the bottom of the world’s oceans in this manner, the scientists say.
However, the team have identified that when salps ingest algae along with microplastic particles, their excretions do not sink to the bottom as fast, and may be broken down closer to the surface to release more of their trapped CO2.
“It is very important to point out our study was carried out in a laboratory,” said Dr Tom Doyle of UCC, a partner in the research.
“We now need to go out into the field to further test our hypothesis by quantifying the abundance of microplastics found in salps and their faecal pellets in different areas of our oceans.”
The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.
Almost 30 sewage schemes across Ireland fall short of EU directives on wastewater treatment, as The Green News reports.
The European Court of Justice ruling from this past Thursday 28 March now means Ireland could be liable to significant fines if the problem schemes are not addressed.
Sensitive areas in Killarney, Longford, Dundalk and Tralee, among others, were also affected by untreated wastewater discharges for which the State has been reprimanded by European judges.
In addition, the State as found guilty of failing to provide for secondary treatment at a number of problem sites including Cobh in Cork Harbour, the fishing harbours of Arklow and Killybegs, and Ringsend in Dublin — the latter of which was the scene of a discharge of ‘activated sludge’ only a month ago.
The Department of Housing and Local Government says it has provided Irish Water “with the necessary resources to both tackle the deficiencies identified by the [ECJ] as well as providing the infrastructure which will underpin the future sustainable development of our country.”
Part of the State’s defence in this case were occasions of ‘unusually heavy rainfall’ that overwhelmed the country’s wastewater management systems.
Such conditions are also linked to the leeching of nitrates and phosphates from agricultural sites causing seaweed blooms in coastal areas, as highlighted by a recent academic report.
The news also comes after oral hearings began into a long-planned €500 million wastewater treatment scheme for North Dublin that faces strong local oppositions.
The Green News has more on the story HERE.
Planners are from today set to review proposals for a controversial €500 million wastewater treatment scheme in North Dublin, as The Irish Times reports.
Clonshaugh near Dublin Airport was chosen in June 2013 as the site for the sewage ‘super plant’ before Irish Water took over the Greater Dublin Drainage project from Fingal County Council last year.
The new plant — second only to the Ringsend wastewater facility in scope — would be connected to a new orbital sewer to Blanchardstown, and an outfall pipe to eject treated wastewater in the sea north of Ireland’s Eye.
Plans for the new sewage processing plant have faced strong local opposition, both from residents adjacent to the Clonshaugh site and connected works and marine professionals concerned about potential environmental risks.
Last October, Howth-based ferryman Ken Doyle expressed his fears of the knock-on effect on fish stocks from any accidental contamination of the local waters from the outfall pipe.
The planning hearing began at The Gresham hotel in Dublin this morning, and The Irish Times has more on the story HERE.
As RTÉ News reports, failure of a processing tank at the locally controversial site led to the overflow, which Irish Water confirmed was from an outfall 1km from the plant in the Lower Liffey Estuary in Dublin Bay, around 9am on Saturday (23 February).
Irish Water says the discharge of ‘activated sludge’ — which “does not pose the same risk to public health or the environment as a raw sewage discharge would” — lasted for around 20 minutes.
But drone images captured on Saturday evening showed the persistence and extent of the pollution incident beside the Great South Wall.
The Ringsend wastewater treatment plant is reportedly running at 20% above capacity as it treats two-fifths of all wastewater in Ireland.
As such, its standard discharge “does not comply with the Urban Wastewater Treatment requirements”, according to an Irish Water statement which also confirmed that the EPA conducted an audit of the affected site yesterday (Tuesday 26 February).
The scourge of bow stickers stuffing rubbish bins and polluting waters the world over could soon be a thing of the past thanks to a new biodegradable variant.
YachtRacing.life reports on the new stickers from race boat supplier PROtect Tapes, made from bioplastic film and designed to be durable enough for regattas of seven to 10 days.
There is also an existing short-term bow sticker for shorter events made of paper from sugar cane cellulose.
Both are made of compostable materials so they can go in the brown bin straight after racing — but if they come off while on the water they will degrade completely within a year.
The development will be good news for Martin Byrne and his fellow Dragon sailors, who raised the issue of plastic pollution from bow stickers at Volvo Cork Week this past summer.
According to the local authority, “small strips of plastic” that have washed ashore in recent days may be present in bathing waters.
While the plastic poses no chemical danger, it could be a nuisance or at worst a physical risk to swimmers.
As The Irish Times reports, contractors working on the redevelopment of the Dun Laoghaire baths site are launching a clean-up operation in the affected area after “a quantity of fibres” was washed into the water during a concrete pour.
It follows community efforts led by local environmental hero Flossie Donnelly, who recently donated a second Seabin for cleaning surface debris in Dun Laoghaire Harbour to the National Yacht Club.
The Riptide Movement’s Plastic Oceans is a three-part web series that hopes to add to the urgent and important debate about how to solve the global plastic crisis and the devastating effect it is having on our marine life.
The Clean Coasts programme took Dublin rock band The Riptide Movement along the incredible Irish coastline and met with some of Ireland’s leading marine biologists, researchers, campaigners and Clean Coasts volunteers to discover the real impacts of plastic in our oceans and what it means for the future of all life on our planet, including us.
The Clean Coasts programme engages communities in the protection of Ireland's beaches, seas and marine life and currently has over 650 volunteer groups working along our Irish coastline, carrying out beach cleans and coastal protection work.
The band also visit a number of locations leading the way in tackling plastic waste including University College Cork, a Green Campus awarded site; chatted with Amanda Byram at the launch of Sky Ocean Rescue in Ireland; and sat down with the Minister for Housing, Planning & Local Government Eoghan Murphy to see what actions the government are taking and what can be done to address the issue at policy level.
Regarding wildlife, a visit to Ireland’s only seal sanctuary and a panel discussion with filmmaker Sophie Darlington highlights the impact our love of plastic is having on our marine animals.
The result is a web series aptly titled ‘The Riptide Movement’s Plastic Oceans’. Narrated by Jerry Fish, this web series highlights the extent of the plastic crisis in Ireland in an informative, artistic and engaging way, whilst also showcasing the small changes we can make to help stem the tide of single use plastics.
Talking about the web series and the bands’ collaboration with Clean Coasts, lead singer Malachy Tuohy said: “We hope this web series and our music can help raise more awareness around one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time.
“Our reliance on single use plastics is destroying our oceans, a reality so poignantly highlighted by David Attenborough in Blue Planet 2. Through our web series we wanted to learn about the issue of plastic pollution here in Ireland and what small changes we can make to help stem the tide of single use plastics.
“Our oceans are drowning in plastic and it is not the legacy we want our generation to be remembered for.”
Speaking about the web series, Clean Coasts manager Sinead McCoy said: “Litter and particularly marine litter has a huge long term negative impact on our environment. Raising public awareness is incredibly important when it comes to reducing marine litter which we see washing up on our coastline on a daily basis.
“So, the Clean Coasts programme is delighted The Riptide Movement are using their influence to bring attention to not only the issue of marine litter but the incredible work being done by Clean Coasts groups and our Clean Coasts stakeholders.”
For more information on how to get involved in Clean Coasts programme see cleancoasts.org
Ken Doyle of Ireland’s Eye Ferries tells Dublin Live that any accidental contamination of the waters from the pipeline, from Clonshaugh to a mile off the small island immediately north of Howth, could have a disastrous knock-on effect on fish stocks — an issue both for sea anglers and local bird and seal colonies.
Five years ago, Clonshaugh in North Co Dublin was chosen as the location for the capital’s wastewater treatment ‘super plant’.
The scheme will connect a 26km orbital sewer through counties Dublin, Kildare and Meath with an outfall pipeline ejecting waste off Ireland’s Eye.
Doyle noted that when the outflow of raw sewage at Howth Head was ended with the opening of the Ringsend treatment plant, improvements in water quality meant “the bird population increased hugely and it’s all positive but I wouldn’t like it to go back to like it was.”
He adds that he is not opposed to the wastewater scheme in principle — only that he and other local residents and businesses want assurances that the plant will not have any negative impact on the environment.
According to RTÉ News, citizen science volunteers taking part in the ‘eco-audit’ of Ireland’s coasts — which has been extended to this Sunday 21 October -- have found “long ropes” of the non-degradable wipes scattered on beaches and around rocks.
“We need an awareness campaign so that people understand why wipes are a problem and that they should not be flushing them away,” said Karin Dubsky of Coastwatch.
RTÉ News has more on the story HERE.
Earlier this year, Dun Laoghaire Harbour in Dublin saw the installation of its first Seabin thanks to the campaigning efforts of local girl Flossie Donnelly.
It’s hoped that the move by Ards councillors will see further take up around the Northern Irish coast.
The Belfast Telegraph has more on the story HERE.