Hayley Todesco from Canada received the 2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize on September 3rd for inventing a method that uses sand filters to treat oil contaminated water and recover water for reuse. H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the prize at an award ceremony during the World Water Week in Stockholm.
The winning entry is a new application of an old water treatment technology that dates back to 1804. Sand filters have traditionally been used to treat drinking water, but Hayley Todesco instead used slow sand filters on contaminated water in oil sands tailing ponds. The method proved to treat wastewater at a faster rate than typical processes, as the sand filters grow bacteria that effectively break down toxic waste.
“This year’s winning project addresses a neglected but pressing environmental issue. The entry displays genuine outside the box thinking. Hundreds of hours of self-driven effort achieved a project that excelled in all judging criteria,” said the Jury in its citation.
“By happy coincidence the topic is on the cutting edge of the water-energy nexus. Tailings from tar sands pose a serious and growing environmental problem. Slow sand filters may date back to the 19th century, but the winner proved them applicable to 21st century problems,” the Jury concluded.
“I am shocked but so grateful. I got the idea of using sand filters from a pen pal in Namibia two years ago, and started testing them on wastewater in a tank at home. Now I have just started studying to become a microbiologist and I hope to spend a great deal of time in the lab to continue developing the method”, said Hayley upon winning the prize.
The international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition brings together the world’s brightest young scientists to encourage their continued interest in water and the environment. This year, thousands of participants in countries all over the globe joined national competitions for the chance to represent their nation at the international final held during the World Water Week in Stockholm. Teams from 29 countries competed in the 2014 finals.