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Crosscurrents is our award-winning radio news magazine, broadcasting Mondays through Thursdays at 11 a.m. on 91.7 FM. We make joyful, informative stories that engage people across the economic, social, and cultural divides in our community. Listen to full episodes at kalw.org/crosscurrents

From peak to tap – should we worry about microplastics in our drinking water?

A building at UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab, buried in snow on March 30th, 2023.
Joshua Sirotiak
A building at UC Berkeley's Central Sierra Snow Lab, buried in snow on March 30th, 2023.

This story aired in the May 8, 2023 episode of Crosscurrents.

This winter was one for the books. With record-breaking low temperatures and a stream of atmospheric rivers, snow came to parts of California that rarely see it. That added up to a huge amount of snowfall for the Sierra Nevada mountains, where much of the Bay Area’s drinking water comes from.

Now, as all that snow melts and makes its way downhill, flooding is a major concern. But another concern has to do with what that snowmelt is bringing with it. We sent KALW environment reporter Joshua Sirotiak up to the mountains to find out what researchers are looking for in our drinking water.

“Typically, when our body is exposed to a foreign object, [be that] a chemical or a micro organism or a particle, we have evolved over millennia to recognize these foreign objects and deal with them using our immune system. But with plastic, it's a very new thing that has only really existed for about 100 years, and humans and other organisms, for the most part, have yet to adapt.”

Crosscurrents Crosscurrents
Joshua Sirotiak is an environment reporter for KALW in San Francisco. He's a working musician, father and self-proclaimed nerd who has previously produced audio journalism for NBC News and Chicago Public Media.