Previously reported from the Canadian side of Lake Superior, from Nipigon Bay eastward, nurdles are now being reported from the U.S. side of the Lake. Marquette resident Dan Wiitala recently contacted Infosuperior about nurdles on Lakewood Lane Beaches near Marquette, Michigan. Dan also contacted the Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) about the sightings. Abbie Debiak of SWP has suggested that a Nipigon Bay nurdle spill resulting from a train wreck could be the source of these pellets. Abbie notes the pellets match the size and colour of nurdles found in Nipigon Bay.
If you’ve been keeping up with our newsletter, you know by now what nurdles are: small white plastic pellets used to make larger plastic items. Nurdles are classified as microplastics under Canadian federal legislation. Nurdles spilled into Nipigon Bay from a derailed Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) train car on January 21, 2008. CPR cleaned-up the initial spill in February of 2008, but a significant portion of the nurdles were already taken up by the lake and have continued to be redistributed to Lake Superior beaches.
Dan Wiitala, who is in the field of environmental science and engineering, writes, “Something I am very curious about is if there are “plumes” of nurdles from that spill that are concentrated in various locations in the lake. The nurdles that made it on to the south shore came in a very specific event (ice, wind, and wave driven) so it seems to me that they must have been concentrated off shore prior to getting beached – which makes me wonder if there are other concentrated plumes out there. I would think the rail company would be willing to at least fund an investigation into the occurrence of these on the water and where the beach finds are, even if lake-wide remediation is not undertaken. I bet fisheries people would be very interested in all of this also.”
CPR conducted subsequent clean-ups on beaches at Mountain Bay and two off-shore islands in April and October of 2008. Further CPR cleanups were completed each year from 2009 to 2015. Parks Canada, with cooperation from Infosuperior, has lead cleanups that were carried out in 2017 and 2018, each collecting close to 200,000 nurdles. Amazingly, the nurdle pellets are still being spotted, most recently at Lakewood Lane Beach near Marquette, more than 200 km./124 mi. south of the original Nipigon Bay spill.
Infosuperior is endeavouring to get an idea of the distribution of nurdles throughout Lake Superior. If you see nurdles on the Lake Superior shoreline near you, please get in touch. Photos of the nurdles and/or photos “landmarking” the location would be helpful. We can be contacted at jfbailey at lakeheadu dot ca. We’re spelling out this address to avoid spam, which is attracted to email addresses posted on websites.)
June 14th, 2018 Infosuperior Post: “Volunteers Collect Over 145,000 Lake Superior “Nurdles”
Ooctober 1st, 2017 Infosuperior Post: “Nipigon Bay Beach Cleanup Nets Almost 200,000 “Nurdles”
May 10th, 2016 Infosuperior Post: “Nipigon Nurdles Meeting Summary”
April 26th, 2016 Infosuperior Post: “Nipigon Nurdles Issue Gains Traction”
April 20th, 2016 Infosuperior Post: “Nurdles in Nipigon Bay: Local Microplastics Concerns“