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Master of Environmental Studies student team wins first place in EPA challenge

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of its ninth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of its ninth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, including the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) student team who was awarded first place in the demonstration project category. The Campus Rainworks Challenge is a national competition that invites college students to address stormwater pollution by designing green infrastructure solutions for local school or college campuses.

Penn’s Netter Center has been working with Andrew Hamilton School in West Philly for about 10 years and the EPA challenge provided MES students a chance to get involved and bring the partnership to a new level.

Principal Torrence Rothmiller notes that the school is located in a food desert and reflects on his vision for the project, which he hopes will “create a place where our kids can learn about fresh vegetables and fruits and be able to see them grown in their neighborhood…and then be able to help deliver them and give access to the neighborhood and school community as a whole.”

In addition to addressing this community’s food insecurity, stakeholders and the MES project team plan to help manage stormwater runoff. The school pays over $1,000 a month in stormwater taxes and the team’s proposed green infrastructure plan will reduce that fee by 80%.

Corey Wills, an MES student team member, said, “When it rains, stormwater runoff from the school combines with raw sewage into one pipe...That pipe overflows and discharges that raw sewage mixture directly into the nearby Cobb's Creek. The outfall for that combined sewer overflow is just upstream of the predominantly African American community of Eastwick, which already experiences chronic issues with both flooding and pollution. Any water which we can manage on the school's campus is water which won't add to Eastwick’s existing environmental justice issues.”

The team’s plans include a green roof atop the school building, several on-site rain gardens which will help irrigate green areas, and edible native species planted in all green areas of the design. With support from the community and the Andrew Hamilton School, the project is planned to begin this spring.

Watch a video to learn more about the MES team’s project plan.

Read more about the EPA Campus Rainworks Challenge winners >