St. Paul Science Club students discover microplastics in Beaver Lake during a class project

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A school project turned into a real threat. A St. Paul science club made up of seventh and eighth graders from Achieve Language Academy tested a water sample near their school and were shocked by what they found.

Beaver Lake is located directly behind the public charter school. The Emily Vondriska Conservation Club took samples from the lake in April, after the water thawed.

They took several 100 milliliter water samples back to their classroom and separated the water from the solids it contained. The solids were left on a disk of graph-type paper and placed under a microscope.

“I was the first to watch the first record and thought I was hallucinating,” Vondriska said.

The Conservation Club spotted microplastics on the disc.

“I counted about 100 pieces of what appeared to be plastic and fiber,” said Vondriska, who thinks the find isn’t something to ignore, “I think the community needs to know.”

Vondriska worries about people swimming and fishing in Beaver Lake.

“Obviously it’s already in the fish, and the people we know are eating this Beaver Lake fish,” Vondriska said.

Worry aside, this project has taught these kids everything they can learn in their backyard, but it’s up to them to find it and do something about it. The students displayed all of their findings on macroplastics around Beaver Lake near the main entrance, so that all of their classmates could also learn about plastic pollution.

“Be curious. Curiosity sparks that interest, whether it’s something good or bad, it’s going to raise awareness and it’s going to educate everyone,” Vondriska said.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says microplastics in lakes are unregulated, but they encourage people to reduce plastic use and dispose of plastics properly.

They say there is little research on the health effects of microplastics.

The MN Department of Health documents safe fish consumption guidelines, where you can research which lakes have the most contaminants in their fish.

Marielle Mohs

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