Water Stewardship Science Fair 2017
The Jersey City Office of Innovation welcomed 56 talented students from across four Jersey City schools to a Water Stewardship Science Fair at City Hall. All students have demonstrated insightful and innovative solutions around the topic of water stewardship. This effort is part of the 2017 Year of Water campaign to raise awareness about stormwater management and water stewardship throughout Jersey City. Water stewardship is a particularly timely topic as Jersey City has a mostly combined sewer system and continues to have localized flooding and sewage backups during heavy rains, in addition to its proximity to public waterways.
Students ranging from fifth to twelfth grade acted as experts as they shared their water presentations and displays.
Fifteen-year-old Harshal Agrawal, a 10th grader from the Ronald E. McNair Academy, presented on how to prevent algae blooms in Jersey City bodies of water using Stropharia Mycofiltration.
“Harmful algae blooms are a massive problem not just nationwide, but worldwide. Even in our own city, harmful algae bloom happens every summer. So why are algae blooms harmful? Well, when you have too much algae, sunlight can’t get to the bottom of the plants and when the bottom plants don’t get the sunlight they die. When the bottom plants die, the small fish that eat those bottom plants, they die. So it sets off a ripple effect in the ecosystem. Harmful algae occur because of the chemicals nitrate and phosphate. Nitrate and phosphate are basically nutrients that make up most fertilizers. So when farmers fertilize their crops, what they are basically doing is that they are applying nitrate and phosphate. So when it rains that nitrate and phosphate go up from the soil and it ends up into a body of water because it goes down the hill. So when that body of water has a lot of nitrate and phosphate, the algae take in those nutrients, expanding and causing algae blooms.”
Since the development of this project three years ago, Agrawal was able to discover how Stropharia Mushroom and Alder Sawdust could remove phosphate from water. Currently, he is hoping to test his findings in farms and gardens to see how this new method can effectively prevent algae blooms from growing in Jersey City’s bodies of water.
Meanwhile, Team TILAPIAS, a group of 13-year-olds from PS 28 Christa McAuliffe School, are working on a project exploring how to terminate invasive species in Jersey City’s local water supply.
“TILAPIAS is an acronym that stands for Terminating Invasive Life and Protection of Aquatic Systems. We use biological ways to terminate invasive species in our local reservoirs by using Tilapia, which gets rid of main invasive like mycology and duckweed. We also use Daphnia, which is from the family of shrimps to get rid of mycology.”
The aspiring team of scientists has been working on their first prototype to help eliminate invasive species in the waters of Jersey City.
Team Algae Eaters, from PS 5, is a group of 13-year-olds who are also investigating the best ways to eliminate harmful algae blooms from our bodies of water.
“Our strategy is to use a combination of three filters. The first filter will be a window screen, which will help prevent large portions of nitrate and phosphate and other types of bacteria from passing through the storm grate, the window screen will be followed by a poly filter, which will be able to absorb any phosphate that manages to infiltrate the window screen and the poly filter will be followed by a dual active carbon sponge, which will help collect any remaining nitrate, phosphate, and any other types of bacteria. When we tested these filters we found out that the filters were able to decrease the amount of nitrate and phosphate in our water but it did increase the amount of iron and copper. And so we moved on to making our second model to help decrease not only the nitrate and phosphate but also the iron and copper.“
The team aims to place this sequence of filters underneath storm drains so that when stormwater passes through the drain, nitrate and phosphate will be collected prior to entering Jersey City’s waters. In addition, they are considering the possibility of introducing into their project a plant called the Amazon Sword plant, which could become a sustainable way to weakened or potentially eliminate the expansion of algae blooms all throughout Jersey City and possibly the world.