Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Brown, Megan

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

Department of Geographic and Atmospheric Sciences


Microplastics (MPs), plastic particles present and continuously moving in our environment, represent a contaminant of global concern to the scientific community and society. MPs are particles less than 5 mm and are ubiquitous in our surroundings and the environment. MPs have been detected in oceans, soils, freshwater, drinking water and groundwater. MPs are considered contaminants of emerging concern (CEC), as they contain toxic components and serve as carriers for other contaminants that may affect the ecology and human health. Limited laboratory and field experiments demonstrate that MPs are transported and retained in porous media of a groundwater aquifer. A research gap exists regarding the effects that MPs transport and retention could have on the porous media permeability of groundwater systems. The objective of this research was to explore whether, and under which conditions, MP transport and retention produces a change in the porous media permeability of an idealized, saturated sand aquifer, by conducting controlled column experiments and constant-head permeability tests. The influence of MP type and shape (polyethylene (PE) spheres, polyethylene (PE) fragments and polyester (PEST) fibers) and two different concentrations (low and high) were considered. The results of this study showed that PE spheres, PE fragments and PEST fibers were more retained than transported within the porous media. However, no change in permeability was produced due to the MPs transport and retention in this study. The results of this study demonstrate that further research is needed to explore other conditions that may affect the porous media permeability. This novel research contributes to the knowledge of the fate and transport of MPs in terrestrial systems, especially in groundwater.


117 pages




Northern Illinois University

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