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Assessing the Efficiency of Different Mesh Sizes for Microplastic Retrieval from the Waters of the Chesapeake Bay 

    Iskander, Benjamin, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W Harrisburg Pike W236, Middletown, PA, 17057,; Clark, Shirley, E, Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W Harrisburg Pike # W236F, Middletown, Pennsylvania, 17057-4846,; Rios, Catherine, Communications Penn State Harrisburg 777 W Harrisburg Pike Middletown PA, 17057,; Xie, Yuefeng, , Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, Penn State Harrisburg, 777 W Harrisburg Pike W236G, Middletown, PA, 17057,

    This study evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of different net mesh sizes in removing microplastic surrogates from the Chesapeake Bay watershed, aiming to address two essential research questions. Firstly, it investigates the timing of clogging of various net mesh sizes when filtering microplastic surrogates. The time to clogging will affect the maintenance frequency of the mesh which affects the economics and practicality of sieving microplastics either out of the Bay waters or at the end of pipes to prevent microplastics from entering the tributaries. Secondly, it explores the potential utilization of turbidity as an efficient indicator for the removal of physical marine debris, serving as a surrogate measure for microplastic concentration. The significance of this research is underscored by the growing threat of microplastics to marine ecosystems and the local economy, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay region.

    In addition to the primary objectives, this research project incorporates a comparative aspect to provide deeper insights into the filtration process. Specifically, it will compare two distinct filtration durations, namely 30 minutes and 40 minutes, to discern any variations in the performance of different net mesh sizes during this extended period. These comparisons will elucidate the trade-offs between filtration rate and flowrate, highlighting the critical role of mesh size in achieving cleaner water.

    Preliminary results suggest that there exists a trade-off between filtration efficiency and time. Finer mesh sizes yield cleaner water but require longer filtration periods. An interesting finding is that a slight increase in mesh opening can sometimes yield comparable filtration results. For instance, Polyester 200 µm mesh achieved the same turbidity levels as Polyester 105 µm mesh after 30 minutes, though the latter reached this point earlier but could not sustain the lower turbidity value during extended filtration. These findings offer valuable insights into crafting effective strategies for microplastic surrogate removal in the Chesapeake Bay, ultimately benefiting marine ecosystems and the interconnected regional economy.

    microplastics , filtration , maintenance