Nova Scotia

Teen saviour of LaHave River inspires other young environmentalists

Stella Bowles is hoping to inspire other young people in Nova Scotia to get political and clean up their waterways, by offering water-testing workshops and publishing a book on her experiences.

'It's to show kids that science isn't just a textbook, it can be fun,' says Stella Bowles of her workshops

Stella Bowles shows a group of children in Wolfville, N.S., how to test their local waterways. (Submitted by Andrea Conrad)

Environmental whiz kid Stella Bowles convinced three levels of government pledge over $15 million to help clean up the LaHave River.

Now the 14-year-old is turning her attention to other parts of the province.

Bowles, whose science project at the age of 11 sparked a movement to clean up the LaHave River, is using grant money she received for her work to inspire other children in Nova Scotia, through workshops and a new book.

"I'm actually training other kids around the province to test their waterways and hopefully, get political and clean up our rivers," she said.

Stella Bowles says she wants other kids to know that testing the waterways in their communities isn't as complicated as it sounds. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Last month, Bowles and her partners at the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation held their first session in Wolfville, N.S.

"It went great, I was surprised how quickly all the kids picked up the process ...The [water] results all came back clear and positive so that's the great news," Bowles said.

The testing kits are being paid for through grants and awards Bowles has received, which now sit in an account at the Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation.

When Bowles tested the LaHave River in the fall of 2015, there were 600 straight pipes dumping raw or partially treated sewage directly into the water.

"So that's 600 homes flushing their toilets every day into the river. That's a lot of contamination, toilet paper, everything you don't want to be swimming in being put in the river every day," she said.

"Knowing that they're all over the province is kind of scary and that people are swimming in poo ... It's nasty."

While straight pipes are illegal under the Nova Scotia Environment Act, Bowles said she wants to see the province do more to stop the use their use.

"It's about time," she said.

Stella Bowles stands next to the LaHave River with part of her sampling gear. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Thanks to Bowles' tenacity in monitoring the contaminated river and releasing the results, the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg signed a memorandum of understanding in 2016 with the provincial government to get rid of the 600 straight pipes that send sewage into the LaHave River.

Last summer, the municipality, the province of Nova Scotia and the federal government pledged a total of $15.7 million to help clean up the river.

Bowles said she wants to keep that momentum going.

"I'm a kid, and I mean $15.7 million is a lot of money," she said. "So, maybe we could get more money for more rivers to be cleaned up."

Bowles said she wants other kids to see the testing isn't as complicated as it sounds and they can make a difference, too.

"It's to show kids that science isn't just a textbook, it can be fun," she said.

​On top of all of that, Bowles also has a book coming out this summer called My River: Cleaning up the LaHave River.

"It's just a book on my life and how the river project started and what's happening in the end," she said.

The book, written by Bowles with the help of author Anne Laurel Carter, is aimed at kids Grade 6 and up.

Bowles said she hopes schools in Nova Scotia will use it to help inspire more students to take action.

But when it comes to a future career as a scientist, those waters are still a little murky.

"I'm not sure what I want to do yet, I'm only 14," she said. "So I have a little ways to think."