Posted: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

White House, EPA Honor Two GCS Students

Rachel and Adam Enggasser have been awarded the EPA President's Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) for EPA Region 4.

Rachel, a 10th grader at Wade Hampton High School, and her brother Adam, a 2017 graduate of Greenville Sr. High Academy, were recognized for outstanding environmental stewardship and demonstrating the initiative, creativity, and applied problem-solving skills needed to tackle environmental problems and find sustainable solutions.

Rachel and Adam implemented a Georgia citizen science initiative into their respective Greenville high schools, calling on fellow students to take charge in their watershed in order to prevent potential environmental health catastrophes.

Rachel and Adam’s interest in environmental protection and citizen science began as young children, participating in programs like Frog Watch USA and 4H. When their interest in water quality was piqued, they sought to bring a Georgia citizen science initiative to South Carolina.

The program, Georgia’s Adopt-A-Stream, is an initiative that trains individuals and groups in standardized water testing protocols. Once trained, citizens take monthly trips to their stream site and sample for Dissolved Oxygen (DO), pH, conductivity, turbidity, and E. coli bacteria levels. Data is posted to a public database for analysis and baseline data storage.

They coordinated a cross-border training session for certification in chemical and macroinvertebrate water monitoring. They initially picked up three sites from across the county and started reporting monthly data to Georgia’s public database. Rachel and Adam expanded their interest to their high school years, starting initiatives to monitor the stream running through the heart of their city, with the involvement of science teachers and other students. 

Over time, Rachel and Adam expanded their work to involve students in routine monitoring. They conceptualized a plan to execute a county-wide survey of streams for possible E. coli bacteria hotspots. Eighteen sites were selected due to their proximity to industry, roads, known sources of pollution, and animal waste. Several students from area high schools collected, plated, and assessed samples from each of the sites. Along the way, involved students have benefitted from open conversations with local environmental professors and officials, and gained exposure to potential career paths. Through their monitoring initiatives over the years, two broken sewer lines have been discovered and repaired which further demonstrates the real world value of citizen science.

Rachel and Adam continue to share their knowledge and encourage their peers and teachers to participate in these environmental stewardship efforts, through promoting inclusion of water monitoring curriculum in Greenville County schools, doing public appearances on local television, and sharing awareness of resources, funds, and supplies. South Carolina has now developed its own Adopt-A-Stream program.

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