Stella Bowles convinced the Canadian government to clean up the LaHave River after years of unchecked sewage contamination—and she’s only 14 years old.
Bowles achieved this victory after testing water samples herself and discovering fecal bacteria in the river. She embarked on a project to demonstrate the depths of the contamination and agitate for change, and although she only won a silver medal at her school science fair, she earned first place in her age group at the International Young Eco-Hero Awards this year.
Bowles was actually 11 when she first began studying the river, located near her home in Nova Scotia. She wasn’t interested in it from a scientific perspective, at least not initially. She just wanted to swim in the river, but her mother Andrea Conrad always told her no. Bowles didn’t understand why until she heard Conrad reference neighbors using straight pipes. She asked what those were. “[My mom] explained it’s a pipe from a home’s toilet into a waterway, with no filtration whatsoever,” Bowles told CityLab. “I had so many questions.”