Category Archives: News & Events

DRUGS!

Well, the title is a bit dramatic – it really should read “Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products.” 

It’s the second brochure in GMWEA’s “Don’t Flush It!” series, and it’s now available.  Part of a public education project funded by a grant from the Lake Champlain Basin Program and NEIWPCC, it’s intended to protect our natural waters – and ourselves – from contaminants we flush, pour, spread, or otherwise put into our wastewater stream. 

GMWEA encourages every Vermont city and town to help get the information into the public’s hands.  It’s now available for download on GMWEA’s website, and GMWEA can provide a total of 5,000 printed brochures to towns requesting them. 

Click here — Don’t Flush It — Drugs! — to download the print- and post-ready PDF; to request printed copies (for towns planning to mail them to residents), contact Daniel Hecht at dan.hecht@gmwea.org.

The first brochure, “Cloggers!,” was enthusiastically received — especially by wastewater operators weary of dealing with pump and pipe malfunction due to congealed fats, oils, and greases mixed with solid materials such as the not-very flushable “flushable” wipes.  Sent in digital form to every municipality and waste district in Vermont back in June, “Cloggers!” was posted on scores of town websites, and many towns printed the brochures and mailed them with property tax bills or sewer/water bills. 

“Drugs!” details the harmful impacts of medications – both prescription and over-the-counter – when they’re flushed or poured into household wastewater streams.  These unnatural chemicals can linger in groundwater, rivers, and lakes, and some can enter drinking water sources.  They can cause harm to aquatic ecosystems, some causing deformities in fish, amphibians, and other wildlife.

They’re not so great for people, either.  The brochure advises dropping off unused medications at one of the Vt. Health Department’s 84 safe drop sites, mailing them in, or mixing them with something unpleasant – cat litter, for example – before tossing in the trash.  (For more information, go to www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal or call (802) 651-1550.)

Medications, though, are the easier pollutant to control.  More problematic are the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products – consumer products for body care and comfort.  We all use them every day, unaware that they pass through or wash off our bodies and pollute ground and surface waters with damaging chemicals.  They’re not food, so they’re not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. 

Hair dye, shampoo, perfume, insect repellent, sunscreen, body washes, cosmetics, deodorants, steroid cream, anti-fungal cream, nail polish – it’s a long list.  These chemicals aren’t removed by our private septic systems or municipal sewage treatment plants, so they end up in natural waters, damaging wildlife, and the U.S. EPA considers many of them to be “contaminants of emerging concern” for humans as well.  In essence, that means we’ve only recently discovered they’re bad for us, and we’re not sure how to deal with them.

“Drugs!” identifies the most common products chock-full of bad chemicals – highly-perfumed and highly-colored products are often the worst – and suggests easy ways to limit your household’s contribution of them.  Never pour or flush ‘em if unwanted or unused (cap tightly and put in trash); avoid highly-scented products; limit use of antibacterial lotions; identify the worst environmental offenders and choose brands that don’t use them.  Most of all, learn about them — the brochure offers several web resources for more information. 

The underlying principle of this initiative is that public systems can only do so much to identify and remove contaminants.  Fortunately, informed Vermonters can easily adopt habits that significantly reduce our collective pollution of our waters. 

Get the brochure!  And please help spread the word.

GMWEA thanks the Castleton University Content Lab for donating graphic design services to this initiative, and is grateful to the Vermont League of Cities and Towns for logistical support.

To return to GMWEA’s website, CLICK HERE.

A Day Without Water?

The U.S. Water Alliance, along with 1,100 other nonprofits, water and wastewater districts, municipalities, businesses, schools, and state agencies throughout the U.S. will observe Imagine a Day Without Water on October 23.  The event is intended to remind us of the importance of water – natural waters and working water – and to renew our commitment to good stewardship of it.

I’ve noted the day for years, but today I actually took the suggestion – that is, tried to imagine having no water.

Daniel Hecht

Well, I wake up and stumble to the bathroom to wash my face, but the tap is dry and my face retains that puffy, crusty feeling.  Then I visit the toilet, but after finishing my business realize that I can’t make it go away with a push of the flush handle. 

Okay, bad start to the day.  But I grump downstairs for some coffee to help get myself into gear – only to discover I can’t make any!  My son is crabby: He has to go to school still sweaty from yesterday’s cross-fit workout because he can’t take a shower.  Also, he put his clothes in the washer and they just went round and round and are not up to high school social standards.  Of course, it’s moot anyway, because the school calls to say it’s closed because the bathrooms, labs, and sprinkler systems don’t work. 

My wife is not in a great mood either – the dishes in the dishwasher aren’t clean, and the dentist called to say her appointment has been canceled due to the absence of water. 

The radio says there’s a fire on the next block, but the fire department can’t put it out. There’s a crisis at the hospital because they can’t clean the operating rooms, hallways, or doctors’ hands.  Now the radio is interviewing a farmer who can’t water her cows or irrigate her crops. 

The cats are looking at me disapprovingly because their water dish is dry.  And I’m getting thirsty, too. 

This litany of woes could go on and on.  In fact, throughout the world, this is the status quo.  There’s not enough water, or the water that’s available is polluted or poorly-managed. For too many, this is not just an incovenience, but a matter of life and death.

The thing to remember is that it takes smart water policy to keep the faucets running.  We have to pro-actively protect natural waters so that we can enjoy and use them.  We need functioning water treatment facilities to make it safe to drink, and we need wastewater plants to clean up water we’ve polluted.  We need, literally, millions of miles of functioning pipe, hundreds of thousands of pumps, to bring it to us.  We need a professional community with the skills to operate this infrastructure 24/7/365.

So, this October 23, ponder the importance of water.  As the U.S. Water Alliance suggests, you might write a letter to the editor, your town council, or your legislator, saying you support investment in water infrastructure. 

And don’t forget that your household, on its own, can help keep your wastewater stream clean and keep the water running – read GMWEA’s “Don’t Flush It!” brochures!

Daniel Hecht, executive director, GMWEA

Click here to return to GMWEA’s website.

Deer Island In Photos

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so for our report on the Deer Island tour, let’s see a few. A tour group from GMWEA. VRWA, and NHWPCA visited the huge, state-of-the-art wastewater plant on October 3 and got a good eyeful. Thanks to Elizabeth Walker and Wayne Graham for the photos!

It’s pretty big.
One of the “eggs” — sludge digesters — seen from below. Check out the “cap” at the top, then see it from the inside, below, to get a sense of scale.
Inside the top “cap” of one of the eggs.
The illustrious Charlie Taylor, who spent 25 years involved in planning, design, construction and process operations of the facility, gives the visitors an introduction.
Some of the tour group, with the eggs in the background.
Secondary clarifiers from horizon to horizon.

If you were a member of the tour group and have photos or comments to share, please send them! We’ll post them here.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

Deer Island WW Tour Coming Up Oct. 3!

NOTE: This tour is at capacity, and no more registrations are being accepted. Sorry! But return to this site in October for more about the Deer Island WW plant and the tour.

Operators, administrators, engineers, planners, educators – don’t miss the bus!  Join GMWEA, VRWA, and NHWPCA for a tour of the huge, state-of-the-art Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant in Winthrop, Massachusetts! This is a rare opportunity to get a close-up view of one of the 20th century’s most challenging and successful environmental improvement projects — and to earn 2 TCHs. 

Deer Island Wastewater Treament Facility, Winthrop, Mass.

Serving 2.3 million people in 43 Boston-area communities, Deer Island is the largest waste water facility in New England and the second or third largest in the US.  Its average influent flow of over 300 mgd and maximum storm-influenced flow of over 1,280 mgd are accommodated while discharging consistently clear effluent through its 24-foot diameter, deep-ocean, gravity-fed  9.5-mile outfall tunnel.  A total of 5,000 miles of sewer pipe serves the facility.

Completed in 2001, this mammoth plant’s design and construction reflect the desire to minimize environmental impacts, of every kind, on Massachusetts Bay.  Its renewable energy systems, for example, provide more than half of the island’s electricity through a combination of methane biodigesters, wind turbines, solar power, and hydro-electric generation. 

The famous Deer Island “Eggs” (sludge digesters)

The tour will be guided by plant process engineering staff.  Adding a deep insider’s knowledge, they will tentatively be accompanied by their former colleague, Charlie Tyler, who retired from the plant in 2017 after over 25 years of involvement in planning, design, construction, start-up, and process operations there.

GMWEA has chartered a bus for Thursday, Oct. 3, to transport attendees to the plant. The bus will depart from the South Burlington Department of Public Works (104 Landfill Road, South Burlington, Vt.) at 6:45 a.m. It will make two additional stops: at the Upper Valley Plaza/JC Penney Plaza (250 N. Plainfield Rd., Unit 202, West Lebanon, N.H.) at 8:15 a.m., and at the New Hampshire Mall (1500 S. Willow St., Manchester, N.H.) at 9:45 a.m. Attendees can be picked up any of the locations.

After the tour, the bus will leave Deer Island at 2:30 p.m. Passengers will be dropped off in Manchester at 4:00 p.m.; in West Lebanon at 5:30 p.m.; and in South Burlington at 7:00 p.m.

The Vermont DEC has confirmed that tour participants will receive 2 TCHs (for the tour, but not the bus ride!). 

The charge for the day’s activities is $65 per person. Attendees need to pack a lunch and dinner — meals are not provided, and stops for food are not planned. Light refreshments and snacks will be available on the bus, or you can bring your own. Alcohol is not permitted.

If you are interested in attending, sign up at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScXvYC8OzSTBjphjdyjphRiXUEj8ugAjwJBEfOhFWeVzCzuBw/viewform?usp=sf_link . Payment is expected at the time of registration. Space is limited, so sign up now! If you have questions, please contact Ryan Peebles, GMWEA’s Membership Committee chair, at (802) 222-1762 or email at Ryan.peebles@cleanwaters.us .

PFAS News III

This is our third post on poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), that ubiquitous and troublesome family of 5,000 “contaminants of emerging concern.” In this post: the risk of PFAS in public drinking water systems, and the current state of affairs in Vermont.

PFAS in firefighting foam photo courtesy of pfascentral.org.

In Vermont, concern spiked after the 2016 discovery of PFOS and PFOA, two of the oldest and best-researched PFAS, in private wells in the Bennington area. The contamination was determined to be due to pollution by Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, which recently agreed to a $40 million settlement with the state.  One result was that, during the 2019 session, the Vermont Legislature gave PFAS close attention, emerging with Act 21, signed by Gov. Scott. The bill:

  • Requires testing of all public drinking water systems by December 1, 2019 (specifically, 650 public community water systems and non-transient, non-community water systems serving 25 or more people over a period of 6 months per year);
  • Establishes a drinking water health advisory level of 20 parts per trillion, in aggregate, of five PFAS, which, if exceeded, requires publication of a “do not drink” advisory and planning for remediation;
  • Mandates research into potential sources and impacts of PFAS over the next five years;
  • Gives the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources authority to establish drinking and surface water MCLs by, at the latest, January 1, 2024.
  • Full information on Act 21 and the Agency’s actions is available at https://dec.vermont.gov/pfas/pfoa

But is there really a significant risk to public drinking water systems?

The U.S. EPA’s “Third Unregulated Contaminant Rule Data Summary” of January, 2017 (surveying PFOA, PFOS, and four other PFAS from 2011 to 2016) reports on tests at 4,920 public water systems.  Very few tested as at or above minimum reference levels, ranging from .1% of sites for PFBS to 1.9% of sites for PFOS and 2.3% for PFOA.

On the other hand, that data is now three years old; only six types of PFAS were surveyed; and the health reference MCLs of 70 ppt were much higher than Vermont’s 20 ppt. 

More recently — May, 2019 — the Environmental Working Group and Northeast University, using data from the Pentagon and local water utilities, reported PFAS contamination at 610 sites in 43 states, including some public drinking water systems. 

Michigan, with 192 known contamination sites, was the most-impacted; however, of the 65 sites found to have MCLs over the federal limit of 70 ppt in a study conducted by the state in 2018, none were municipal systems. (Three school water systems did show contamination; the rest were military-related, industrial, firefighting, or mining sites.)

Drinking water processing plant at Highland Reservoir, Yorba Linda, Cal., which found reportable levels of PFAS in August, 2019, testing.

But the data keeps coming in – and it merits close attention.  The August 30, 2019 Orange County Register reports finding “reportable levels” of PFAS in 11 source wells operated by Southern California public drinking water agencies – levels that will require remediation (and alternate water sourcing) under newly-legislated limits.  In Los Angeles County, 32 of 138 county wells exceeded limits, resulting in closure of 4 wells.

The best solution for PFAS is prevention and interception at high-concentration sites. But can these “forever chemicals” be eliminated from water that’s already contaminated?

Yes. Granular activated charcoal filters and reverse osmosis are being used to successfully remove PFAS in Michigan, California, and elsewhere.  Of course, water quality professionals and regulators have to ask: But at what cost, to whom? 

New research developments also have promise, as high-tech solutions are being devised to address the problem.  At the international CleanUp 2019 conference, as of this writing being held in Australia (Sept. 8 – 12), the company AECOM unveiled DE-FLUOROTM, a process of electrochemical oxidation that removes 90% to 100% of PFAS. 

Admittedly, only time will tell if the technology proves viable, affordable, workable in diverse contexts, and without unforeseen effects of its own. But AECOM is likely only the first major corporation to be drawn by the lure of marketable — profitable — remediation products/processes.

All of which leaves us wondering what we can expect from the current round of testing in Vermont. The answer: Like everything else about PFAS, we’ll just have to wait and find out!

GMWEA would love to hear from water system operators and administrators about their experiences with the testing process!  Please send perspectives to Daniel Hecht, executive director, at dan.hecht@gmwea.org.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.

The PFAS Predicament II

This is the second post on poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), those problematic “contaminants of emerging concern.”

Writing about PFAS is difficult because the landscape is changing so fast.  During the last year, this family of 5,000 human-made chemicals has caused increasing consternation among drinking water and wastewater professionals and regulators.  As awareness of their prevalence — in our bodies, food, consumer goods, industrial products, and water – grows, at least 20 alarmed state legislatures have crafted policies to confront the problem.

Above: Firefighting foam is among the most concentrated sources of localized PFAS contamination.

In the last couple of months, national and regional water and wastewater organizations have jumped into the issue with member advisories and Congressional testimonies. As GMWEA’s Government Affairs committee members can attest, water quality professionals’ inboxes are often jammed with PFAS-related bulletins from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), Water Environment Federation (WEF), American Water Works Association (AWWA), and many others.

Coherent, consistent policy related to PFAS is hard to establish for a number of reasons:

  • The scientific and regulatory issues are complex — and hard to quickly convey to preoccupied policy-makers.
  • There are so many PFAS, with so many vehicles for human exposure; their sources, transport and persistence characteristics, and health effects vary widely.
  • Their health effects have, for the most part, not been confidently ascertained.  As WEF states about H.R. 2500 (see below), “With limited research into the health effects of the 5,000 PFAS compounds and no established analytical methods and treatment methods for wastewater effluent, this amendment is bad policy.”
  • Misconceptions abound, sometimes prompting hasty decisions in attempts to protect the public health.

Above: PFAS foam on a Michigan lake, residual from mining operations. Photo thanks to the Detroit Free Press.

Where things stand in the U.S. Congress:

In July, both houses of Congress passed legislation on PFAS as part of the National Defense Authorization Act – but the House and Senate versions differed.  As of this writing, the House bill, H.R. 2500, has provisions that would regulate PFAS under CERCLA, the Superfund legislation passed in 1980. CERCLA has strict stipulations about retroactive liability, which WEF says “could place the burden on FPAS ‘receivers,’ such as wastewater and drinking water agencies.'” 

The Senate version, S.1790, does not include these provisions, and the various water associations are advocating for terms more like the Senate’s; the bills will have to be reconciled in conference during September.  However, to add to the confusion, President Trump has signaled he’ll veto the bill in either form!

Key points:

The national and regional drinking water and wastewater associations strongly support government action to protect public health, but warn of “unintended consequences” of legislation.  The sheer lack of information about PFAS and the risk of local liability are their chief concern.

  • Of particular concern is the misconception that wastewater treatment plants generate or add PFAS. They don’t — treatment facilities only convey what they receive from influent.
  • The best solution is to prevent PFAS from entering the wastewater stream — to identify sources, prohibit certain commercial uses, and focus on origin-specific mitigation.
  • Wastewater treatment plants — that is, the communities that they serve — are unable to afford the expense of measuring, monitoring, and removal of PFAS arriving at facilities.
  • Trace amounts of PFAS in wastewater plant effluent, and in biosolids, could potentially enter groundwater and thus drinking water sources. However, according to the North East Biosolids and Residuals Association (NEBRA), except in “a few worst-case scenarios” when treatment plants have received exceptionally high concentrations from industrial and other points of origin, impact on drinking water sources is not likely to exceed established concentration limits.  NEBRA stresses that PFAS do not “originate” with biosolids but from sources higher up the wastewater stream – the best place to intercept them.

Next: PFAS regulation in Vermont and indications — or lack thereof — of the likelihood that PFAS show up in public drinking water systems.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.


PFAS!

PFAS!  The acronym brings up goosebumps on citizenry, regulators, and water quality professionals alike.  Though these human-made chemicals have been around for 70 years, they’ve stepped into the emerging toxins spotlight this year, and concern is growing.

Here’s a sampling of news headlines from throughout the U.S. on July 28:

  • Pentagon Announces PFAS Task Force to Address Contamination (EWG)
  • Farmers Are Losing Everything After “Forever Chemicals” Turn Up In Their Food (BuzzFeed News)
  • New York to Get Federal Funds for PFAS Health Study (Lexington Herald Leader)
  • Water System Operators Told to Test for PFAS Contamination (Greenwich Time)
  • Three Connecticut Rivers to be Tested This Summer for PFAS Chemical Pollution (Hartford Courant)
  • “Markedly higher” Levels of 2 PFAS Found in the Blood of NC Residents (WECTV)
  • Yakutat Officials Wary of State’s PFAS Double Standard (Alaska Public Media News)

This post will lay out the basics on PFAS; future posts will discuss current efforts by Vermont and other New England states to learn more about PFAS and to reduce human health risks associated with them.

What are PFAS, and why are they nicknamed “the forever chemicals”? 

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances comprise a family of almost 5,000 compounds, being invented and manufactured continuously since 1940.  They’re called “forever chemicals” because that’s what they were designed to be – highly durable, resistant to grease, solvents, biodegradation, photodegradation, and heat.

They’re used in hundreds products, notably non-stick cookware, heat-resistant industrial materials (and processes), water- and stain-resistant sprays, carpets, food packaging, dental floss, paints, cleaning products, and firefighting foams. 

That means we have lots of opportunities to be exposed to them.  During Congressional testimony on July 24, Glenn Evers, a DuPont chemist for 22 years, claimed that 99% of Americans have PFAS in their blood and body cells.  And, Evers warned, “these chemicals stay in your blood and don’t leave. . . . there is not a single bacteria, mold, or virus, anything that will ever break this molecule down.”  He went on to say, “You can’t kill this beast.   You can only control it.”

How are humans exposed?

As the above suggests, we’re exposed from the moment we fry our breakfast eggs on a non-stick pan until we floss our teeth before bedtime.  The US EPA lists the following as the most common means or sources of exposure:

  • Eating food packaged in PFAS-containing materials or food grown in PFAS-contaminated soil or water
  • Eating fish or wild game with high concentrations of PFAS
  • Inhaling or having skin contact with commercial household products, including stain- and water-repellent fabrics, nonstick products (e.g., Teflon), polishes, waxes, paints, cleaning products, etc., containing PFAS
  • Inhaling or having skin contact in workplaces, such as production facilities or industries using PFAS (e.g., chrome plating, electronics manufacturing or oil recovery)
  • Drinking water – whether from a well, a municipal supply, or bottled – that has been contaminated or packaged using materials/equipment containing PFAS
  • For babies, drinking breast milk from mothers who have been exposed to PFAS

What are the health dangers?

Definitive answers may not be available, yet.  While concern is universal among health authorities, high-confidence clinical literature is hard to find.  This is in part due to the fact that, with new PFAS continually being invented, there hasn’t been time to assess their health effects. 

PFOA and PFOS have been better studied; in lab animals, according to the US EPA, they have been shown to affect function of reproductive, developmental, endocrine, and immunological systems, and have caused tumors.

Among humans, the most consistent findings are increased cholesterol levels among exposed populations, with more limited findings related to:

  • low infant birth weights
  • reduced immune response
  • changes in liver function
  • kidney and testicular cancer (for PFOA), and
  • thyroid hormone disruption (for PFOS)

But which of the 5,000 PFAS are most toxic?  What degree of health impairment results from what level of exposure, over how long?  Is there a safe level?  What products, foods, or circumstances cause the greatest uptake by the human body?  How can consumers minimize their exposure?

Well, as the ATSDR – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry – explains, mildly, “Scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposure to mixtures of PFAS.”

Next: PFAS in water and wastewater, and what the EPA and states are doing about it.

To return to GMWEA’s website, CLICK HERE.

The Best in the Business!

The nominations came in, the panels convened, and deliberations were duly made. On May 23, 2019, at GMWEA’s annual Spring Member Meeting and Conference, 10 awards were presented to individuals and facilities for their exceptional service in water quality fields in 2018 — or, in one case, a lifetime.

We congratulate the awardees and thank them for their commitment to protecting public health and Vermont’s beautiful environment!

Ashleigh Belrose, above, operator at South Burlington’s Airport Parkway WRRF, won the Bob Wood Young Professionals Award, given to a young professional operator or engineer (30 or under) who has achieved notable contributions to the water environment, water or wastewater operations, and/or to GMWEA.

Rod Munroe, lab director, City of Rutland Wastewater, received the Andrew D. Fish Laboratory Excellence Award, presented for outstanding activity in laboratory performance at work, community service, education, committee participation, or other outstanding contribution.

Chelsea Mandigo, stormwater coordinator/operator, Village of Essex Junction, won the Stormwater Award, presented for outstanding performance in stormwater management and/or education, and significant contribution to the stormwater field.​

Peter Krolczyk, operator, Town of Waterbury, was presented with the Operator Excellence – Wastewater award, given for outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities.

John Tymecki, operator, Champlain Water District, won the Michael J. Garofano Water Operator of the Year Award, presented for outstanding performance in system maintenance, protecting public health, and achievement beyond normal responsibilities.

(Above) The Town Of Ludlow WWTF won the Facility Excellence Award, Wastewater, given annually for outstanding facilities exceeding system operation requirements. Recognition is for the entire facility and staff.

Jim Fay, general manager (retiring!) of Champlain Water District, was presented with GMWEA’s prestigious Founder’s Award, given to individuals for significant contributions to the water quality professions and GMWEA during a lifetime of service.

Chris Cox, chief operator at Montpelier WRRF, received the 2019 President’s Award, presented to water quality professionals demonstrating exceptional achievement in their fields and service on behalf of Green Mountain Water Environment Association’s mission.

Kevin Corliss, operator at Drew’s All Naturals, LLC, in Chester, received the Outstanding Industrial Operator Award, presented for significant accomplishments in operation, problem solving, crisis management, training, or understanding of industrial wastewater issues.

Global Foundries WWTF, Essex Junction, received the Outstanding Industrial Facility Award, given for demonstrated commitment to clean water and pollution prevention, including implementation of water or wastewater treatment changes to address problems common to similar industries.

To return to GWMEA’s website, click here.

VtSTEM Winners!

Congratulations to our 2019 Vermont STEM fair water quality project winners!  The four students were chosen from among 200 student scientists who presented their projects on March 30, at Norwich University.  The annual fair features exhibits by middle and high school students from throughout the state, all of whom won local-level competitions for their experiments.

Clearly, cyanobacteria/algae and phosphorus are hot topics in Vermont’s schools, and all four 2019 winners addressed them in various ways.

Virginia Snyder

Virginia Snyder, in 11th grade at Windsor Schools, won the top award of $150 for her project “Designing a Solar-powered Ultrasonic Cyanobacteria Growth Inhibitor.”  Virginia explored using sound to suppress algae blooms by exposing four colonies of Anabaena to different ultrasonic wavelengths. She is motivated by the technology’s potential to treat natural bodies of water, but in the near future hopes to run tests on her algae growth inhibitor in home fish aquariums.  GMWEA’s judges were impressed by her knowledge of biology and sound physics, her use of multiple means of assessment, and the quality of her exhibit.  She is the student of Catharine Engwall.

Audrey Chairvolotti

Audrey Chairvolotti, a home-schooled 9th grader from Grand Isle, also won GMWEA’s top award of $150 for “Effects of Nonpoint-Source Pollutants on Cyanobacteria Growth.” Also concerned with algae blooms in Lake Champlain, Audrey collected cyanobacteria samples from a dense bloom on the lake, then tested their growth in 14 different solutions. The judges appreciated the thoroughness of her experimental protocols, her management of controls, her enthusiasm, and her understanding of biochemistry, as demonstrated in discussion and her exhibit.  She cites her mother, Sheila Chairvolotti, as her instructor for the project.

Emily King

Emily King, a 9th grader at Missisquoi Valley Union H.S., won $100 for “How Effective Will Substances Be in Binding to Phosphorus During Filtration?”  Seeking to identify  possible phosphorus (P) mitigation methods, Emily explored chemicals likely to bond with P, potentially allowing for filtration prior to entry to Lake Champlain.  She envisions additional testing to determine impacts of the binders on aquatic animal and plant life.  The judges were struck by her trans-disciplinary approach – testing P binders known from the treatment of kidney disease – and consideration of both possibilities and impediments to use of phosphorous-binding filtration.  She is a student of Richard Ballard.

Jaylyn Davidson

Jaylyn Davidson, a 10th grader at Northfield High School, won GMWEA’s $50 scholarship for “Is Algae Part of the Solution for Environmental Pollution?” Jaylyn explored the potentials for three types of algae and a flowering aquatic plant (duckweed) to help mitigate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by sequestering CO2 through “farming” in lakes and oceans.  Growing each in four different nutrient solutions, she assessed biomass increase as a measure of CO2 uptake. The judges appreciated her concern for the global environment, her understanding of biochemistry, and her motivation to pursue a career in marine biology.  She is the student of Shane Heath.

We commend these terrific young scientists for their enthusiasm, discipline, and devotion to water ecosystems!

Many thanks are due to Aaron Perez and Paul Sestito, water systems specialists at Vermont Rural Water Association, for joining executive director Daniel Hecht to judge this year’s STEM fair.

To return to GMWEA’s website, click here.