Olivenhain Pioneer students unveil water filtration project

While the rain would normally put a damper on outdoor events, it was the perfect complement to a presentation by young environmentalists April 19 at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School (OPE).

The group of fifth- and sixth-grade student interns — dressed in orange hard hats and bright safety vests — unveiled a project designed to filter runoff from the school campus before it drains into the ocean. The rain allowed attendees, including school officials and parents, to see the project in action.

As rain flowed onto the school's parking lot while presenters spoke, a patch of permeable asphalt caught the water to go directly into the ground. This allows runoff to filter through the pavement structure and engineered soils before flowing into a bioswale.

"When it rains, we collect samples at our drains and send the samples to a lab to have them tested for pollutants," explained fifth-grader Sienna. "We also learn to test the samples ourselves and then analyze the results in class. ... With all this data, we can then make recommendations for ways we can reduce storm water pollution on our campus."

Through their testing, the students noted high levels of pollutants draining off the parking lot at OPE, said sixth-grader Carson.

At the end of the school year, students plan to submit their findings and recommendations to the Encinitas Union School District (EUSD).

The project — constructed during the school's spring break — was designed by students as part of the 2014 Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP), an annual yearlong, science-based program, which guides fifth and sixth grade students to produce a SWPPP plan for their school site. The interns put the projects together well enough to earn the large Drought Response Outreach Program for School (DROPS) grant from the California Stormwater Quality Association, worth $700,000.

The program is offered at all nine schools within the EUSD. Projects at El Camino Creek, Flora Vista and La Costa Heights elementary schools were completed last year.

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