Study finds microplastics in aquifers near waste dumpyards of Chennai Corp


A study conducted by a team of researchers from Anna University and St. Joseph’s College of Engineering in Chennai have detected the presence of microplastics in water bodies near waste dumping yards of Chennai Corporation.

The microplastics measuring less than 5 mm were found in water sources near the Corporation dumping yards of Perungudi and Kodungaiyur.

The study found that in every litre of the water source within 1 to 2 km of these two dump yards there was the presence of 2 to 80 microplastic particles detected. These microplastics, according to the research team would have made their way into the groundwater after major plastics were broken down due to weathering and would have entered into the aquifers through the waste in the dumping yards.

The microplastics could cause health problems to those who drink water from these aquifers and it will also make its way to the sea along with the groundwater harming the marine ecosystem and ecology.

K. Manikanda Bharath, who was the corresponding author of the study, speaking to IANS said, “The maximum microplastic samples we found in 1 litre water in Kodungaiyur was 23 but in Perungudi it was 80. This is owing to the fact that Perungudi yard is on marshland and water is available through the year and these microplastics go down into the groundwater along with the water in the marshland.”

He said, “With houses across the city using single use surgical masks and N95 masks, the proportion of these microplastics entering the water bodies could be much higher in the days to come.”

Doctors also warned that drinking water contaminated with microplastics could lead to skin ailments, ulcers, and serious respiratory illness in some people.

Ramesh Chandradas, a gastroenterologist with a leading private hospital in Chennai, speaking to IANS said, “Regular usage of water with microplastics would lead to the formation of ulcers as well as intestinal issues and can also become cancerous in the long run.”

The study also found that of the 4,500 tonne of solid waste generated daily in the Chennai corporation, 7.5 per cent is plastic waste. Of the fifteen zones in Chennai corporation, waste from eight zones are dumped in Kodungaiyur while the remaining seven zones dump it at Perungudi.

Suchithra Menon, Scientist and independent researcher on biowastes, speaking to IANS said, “In the west, they have developed a system wherein biomining is used where you can extract metals from e-waste and the rest of the solid waste can be used to generate biogas. Also dumping in open yards is an issue to be taken care of on a war footing for a healthy environment and thereby a healthy society.”