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EPA NSW Takes Action after AUSMAP Identifies Hotspot at Dee Why Lagoon on sydney's Northern Beaches

We are excited to see the news recently that EPA NSW is partnering with the Northern Beaches Council to tackle microplastic pollution around Dee Why Lagoon on Sydney’s northern beaches. Dee Why Lagoon is an important wildlife habitat with high conservation value. The location is a unique saline coastal lagoon, with occasional connection to the ocean, which makes it a safe haven for many young fish and bird species.


AUSMAP investigated microplastic loads along Dee Why Lagoon shorelines

AUSMAP citizen scientists, including local high schools, university students and community volunteers, have been sampling the shores of Dee Why Lagoon since 2019. The consistent sampling efforts found that some shorelines contained high levels of microplastics, with the highest area having approximately 1000 pieces per metre squared (MP/m2). As a result, this has now been recorded as a ‘microplastic hotspot’.


The microplastic hotspot identification then prompted further sampling efforts through the catchment using our unique source identification methods in our Microlitter Reduction Framework (MRF). This demonstrated that certain parts of the catchment were contributing different microlitter types that flowed into the lagoon, before being deposited on the shores. The types of microplastic included foam, hard fragments, rubber crumb, synthetic grass and pellets (primary pre-production microplastic known commonly as nurdles). Through the MRF, AUSMAP worked with local stakeholders, including the Northern Beaches Council and EPA NSW to present the issue and spark further investigation efforts.


Photo S. Wilson: Drain trap findings found in 2021 at Dee Why lagoon include rubber crumb fragments, synthetic grass, foam, fibres, and hard fragments.


AUSMAP’s Dee Why Lagoon Project

In 2021, AUSMAP lead the investigation, in a partial EPA NSW-funded project and Phase 3 of the MRF, to install stormwater outlet nets and street level drain pit baskets to help further determine litter sources. This occurred across different land use types in the targeted catchment (e.g. low density residential, recreational and special use, and light industrial) areas.




Photo S. Wilson: Stormwater nets installed on local networks to capture the flush following rainfall.


Over eight months, the project, supported by postgraduate students from Macquarie University under the instruction of Dr Scott Wilson (AUSMAP Research Director), found over 60,000 microlitter particles. In the light industrial locations, dominant types included glass, film, and foam. It was the only site where industrial pellets were found. In the locations near a synthetic sports field, rubber crumb was the dominant item identified. This variability highlights the importance of land-use in determining microplastic sources and highlights the importance of continuous sampling and the implication of further prevention methods.


EPA NSW and Council Committed to Clean Up!

After extensively investigating the area, we are excited to see EPA NSW and Northern Beaches Council come together to assist in tackling the microplastic litter problem.


EPA NSW recently announced its commitment to stop nurdles from entering the drains in the region “to ensure the drain is just for rain.” This is great progress, and we are applauding EPA NSW for taking bold action. AUSMAP identified that 3.1 million pieces of various microplastics flow into the Dee Why Lagoon, and consequently into the ocean. We hope that NSW EPA will also take action on addressing the other sources of microplastics found in the local area.


Our mission at AUSMAP is to identify microplastic hotspots through our citizen science methodology and employ our trained citizens to trace pollution back to the source and suggest effective remediation strategies. This process allows collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including local councils, businesses and state governments, and the implementation of the AUSMAP ‘Microlitter Reduction Framework’ (MRF) (if you would like more information on this, please email info@ausmap.org).


We are excited to see the end product of our hotspot identification in action. We can not wait to see the results of the project!


For more information on our commitment to litter reduction and AUSMAPs Dee Why case study, please check out our 2020-2021 Litter Congress Green Report here.



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