Few people can say that they put much thought into what happens after they flush their toilet. But a few years ago, Stella Bowles learned about something called a straight pipe. Ever since then, she has been using her voice (and science) to help make Nova Scotia’s LaHave River healthier.
There are sewage treatment plants nearby, but straight pipes takes sewage directly from a toilet to a body of water, bypassing any treatment to remove fecal matter (a fancy term for ‘poop’). Stella learned that without any sewage treatment, the water in LaHave River, which is located in front of her home, becomes too unhealthy for swimming. “I found out about straight pipes and was very upset,” Stella says about the 600 or so straight pipes that deposit raw sewage directly into the river. “I am very sad that I can’t swim in my river.”
Stella immediately started asking many important questions about straight pipes in her community. “Why are the straight pipes allowed if they are illegal? How polluted is our river with poop? Do people know there are straight pipes in the LaHave River?”
These questions prompted Stella to do some investigating of her own. For a science fair project, Stella tested water samples from the river, and the results showed high levels of fecal contamination. “I felt like I had to let people know,” Stella says on her website.
Stella could not understand why these archaic, illegal straight pipes were still in place. She has since contacted Nova Scotia’s Minister of Environment and Premier to let the government know that she’s aware of the problem and will continue to fight until straight pipes stop sending raw sewage into the river.
“It’s strange to me that a permit is given to illegal straight pipe houses. I know I am a kid and it is all very complicated and involves money, but really when a house is sold, it would make sense to fix the illegal straight pipe at that time,” Stella writes in a letter to her Premier. “I really want to see a straight pipe free Nova Scotia someday. It is already long overdue.”
These days, Stella is continuing her work with the LaHave River by contacting members of her local and the federal government. She is also working on another science fair project named ‘Oh poop! It’s worse than I thought!’ where she integrates other factors such as farmland runoff into the initiative.
Stella reflects on her learning experiences starting from the day she learned about straight pipes. “Overall, I have learned that I can make a difference. I learned the power of social media… I have learned so much science. I have learned about government and I have met so many cool people.”
Through a combination of science and advocacy, Stella embarks on creating positive environmental changes, and encourages all young people to do the same. She has remained motivated in overcoming the icky-ness factor of this ‘stinky matter’ in order to make the LaHave River a cleaner, safer and more enjoyable place to be.
With the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation, Stella will be presenting her fecal contamination research at both the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication in May 2017. She’ll also present at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Regina this year.
Stella is organizing a leadership workshop with Coastal Action with the goal of inspiring youth to participate in environmental science initiatives.
In 2016, Stella had the opportunity to meet and speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about her work – showing that leaders are listening to her message.
This article was sponsored by Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation. Here’s what they have to say about Stella:
Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation wants to congratulate Stella Bowles for this well-deserved award. We are inspired by the work you are doing in our community to raise awareness about the contamination of the Lahave River. We look forward to continuing to work with you on this project, and others!
Support The Starfish Canada's Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 program and help these environmental champions get the recognition they deserve.