The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Lea Wang, a sophomore at Council Rock High School in Holland, is the 2019 winner of a President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) for EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. The Mid-Atlantic Region includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“Lea’s incredible work demonstrates a true commitment to learning and to protecting natural resources,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “She and all students who participated in the PEYA program show that we have some bright minds to take on our future environmental challenges.”
Wang received the award for her work on the Teen Research and Education in Environmental Science (TREES) program where she participated in a study using charcoal filters to remove potentially harmful antibiotics during a wastewater treatment process.
“I’d like to thank the EPA for having a program like this that allows me and other students to present what we are learning,” said Wang. “The PEYA program helped open my mind and expand my thinking on problems we were being taught in the classroom.”
Antibiotics from human and animal consumption have increasingly polluted drinking water, enabling bacteria and fungi to develop resistance. However, many wastewater treatment facilities do not employ existing remediation technologies because of high costs, so an effective, economical filtration option is needed. The TREES study investigated the efficacy of the repeated use of relatively inexpensive activated charcoal in filtering a common amoxicillin-class antibiotic from water.
The TREES program, funded by the National Institutes of Health, provided Wang an opportunity to work on independent research projects with high school mentors and graduate students. She also visited local wastewater treatment plants prior to her experimentation to learn about the treatment process from professionals in the field.
Wang was among 35 students who worked as a team or individually on 13 projects receiving PEYA awards. Their stewardship projects, conducted in 2019, display a commitment to learning, to protecting natural resources, and to engaging their communities in environmental protection.