Canadian teen’s oilsands cleanup invention wins big

Jordan Chittley, CTVNews.ca Writer

A Canadian teen beat out finalists from 28 other countries to win the prestigious 2014 Stockholm Junior Water Prize.

Teen wins science prize for oil sands solution
Teen wins science prize for oil sands solution

Calgarian Hayley Todesco, 18, has created a way to treat wastewater from the oilsands. She used bacteria from tailing ponds and multiplies them in a filter to clean up toxic waste.

“Nobody has ever used these sand filters before to grow bacteria to break down this pollution,” she told CTV Calgary.

Using sand to filter and treat drinking water has been used since the early 19th century.

“This year’s winning project addresses a neglected but pressing environmental issue,” said the jury in its citation. “The entry displays genuine outside the box thinking. Hundreds of hours of self-driven effort achieved a project that excelled in all judging criteria.”

All the contestants were standing on the stage in Stockholm earlier this month when they announced Todesco as the winner.

“They start describing the project before they announce the winner and they started talking about sand bacteria,” she said. “I was on stage, so I started wiggling because I thought that might be me.”

Todesco received $15,000 for winning the prize and her school will receive $5,000.

She said she got the idea of using sand filters from a friend in Namibia two years ago, and started testing the idea in a tank at home.

Todesco just returned from Sweden where Princess Victoria presented her the award. She is also a top-five finalist in the Google Science Fair. She heads to Google headquarters in California next weekend to learn if she will win that award as well.

She has a scholarship to study microbiology from the University of Alberta and hopes to spend a lot more time in the lab developing this method.

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