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New Student-Led Program Aims to Clean our Waterways


A first-of-its-kind program has local students keeping an eye on Buncombe County water quality while getting hands-on learning experience. A partnership with the County’s Soil & Water Conservation District and Martin L. Nesbitt Discovery Academy is creating North Carolina’s first student-led water quality monitoring and improvement project. The pioneering initiative allows students to independently monitor water quality for potential issues while collaboratively identifying and implementing solutions.

“Here at Nesbitt Discovery Academy, we encourage project-based experiential learning,” said Greg Tucker, Nesbitt Discovery Academy teacher. “This program is a great example as it will also make positive impacts in the water quality for neighboring communities and the French Broad River.”

The project’s goal is to install a stormwater wetland aimed at removing impurities from the water and construct an outdoor environmental learning center that will  provide opportunities for students to advance their environmental knowledge in a natural setting. This site will be built on property located at the Martin L. Nesbitt Discovery Academy, which previously housed an electronics manufacturing plant.

Discovery Academy senior Harlan Glen describes the current water quality, “The fact it was once a manufacturing plant is reflected in our preliminary soil and water samples, which are both extremely high in metals.” Junior Clay Grant adds: “Documenting the water quality benefits the wetlands and vegetative detention basins – and that is extremely important. [Our work] will focus on pollutant removal efficiency and stormwater impacts.”

The grant-funded project’s length will be determined by how much funding it receives. In the meantime, students are excited about continuing work with the County’s Soil & Water Conservation district to monitor and learn more about water quality.  To learn more about the student learning project, you can visit buncombecounty.org/soil.