talare_dagvatten7How can you detect and reduce the amount of microplastics in stormwaters? Julia Talvitie D.Sc. (tech) and researcher at the Finnish Environment Intitution, Marine Research Center is Key Note Speaker at Dagvattenhantering 2018 in Stockholm. She will address the topic of microplastics in stormwaters and before the event we had the opportunity to have a chat with her.

 

Your presentation will address micro plastics in stormwaters – why is this such a hot topic right now? 

Microplastics are such a hot topic right now! When I started in this field in 2012, most people had never heard of the microplastics. Now plastic litter and microplastics are on everyone’s lips. And I’m not surprised – we find microplastic pollution practically everywhere. There are many positive impacts of plastic in our society, but unfortunately, it’s also causing problems to the environment.

For me personally studying the microplastics in stormwaters is natural continuum as I did my dissertation on microplastics in municipal wastewaters. We now start to have some idea about the fate and transportation of microplastics in wastewaters, but to put that into larger context, we need information also from other pathways. As stormwaters are suggested to be one of the most significant ones, it got my attention.

We know there is microplastics in stormwaters. For example, tire wear from traffic is estimated to be as one of the major sources of microplastics and stormwaters are most probable pathway for these MPs to the environment. However, at the moment we lack the actual data to confirm this. But many scientists, me included, are working with this issue!

Could you please give us any examples of concrete ways to reduce the amount of plastics in stormwaters

Reducing public littering and illegal dumping would reduce the amount of plastic litter in any environment, including stormwaters.  Driving style (economical vs aggressive driving) can probably have an impact on the amount of microplastics deriving from the traffic. In addition, different tire and road materials may behave differently and release microplastics differently. However, we have very limited knowledge of this issue. Despite of the knowledge gap I nonetheless recommend economical driving style – for many reasons!

Which role does urban planning have when it comes to manage micro plastics?

Urban planning is the key for managing stormwater quality. One of the major reasons to study stormwater quality, in this case with microplastics, is to determine the role of stormwaters as pathways as well as recognize the so called “hot-spots” (areas discharging most of the microplastics). With this information we can then focus on significant sources and pathways and cost-efficiently start solving and managing the problem. But first, we need accurate information where to focus and whatare the key elements effecting the formation of hotspots. Lot of work ahead of us!

Are there any new interesting innovations in this area?

Yes there is, but I’m not going to go to any details about that right know. You have come to the Dagvattenhantering 2018 to hear more about the research and interesting innovations!

What differentiates Finland and Sweden in strategies and actions for handling stomwaters?

Honestly, I’m not that familiar with Swedish strategies and actions for handling stomwaters. I’m looking forward to learn more about this in the Dagvattenhantering 2018! In general, Finland and Sweden have solid infrastructure, and both are prepared relatively well for future challenges caused by climate change. The focus is however often managing quantities (like flood management) not so much the quality issues. I hope to bring more of the stormwater quality aspects to the table!