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Inspiring students rise to the Pollution Challenge

"Project seeking to improve the environment and help people enjoy it in a sustainable way

Students' inspirational ideas to tackle water pollution were celebrated at an awards ceremony hosted by the Environment Agency, with prizes presented by its Chairman Lord Chris Smith.

The Environment Agency's Pollution Challenge competition, run in partnership with the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM), threw down the gauntlet to full-time students studying in the North to come up with bold and innovative solutions to combat water pollution coming from the urban environment, known as 'urban diffuse pollution'.

Entries arrived last year on the back of one of the wettest summers on record, with 18 students making the finals.

The judging panel gave marks on categories considering innovation, the environmental benefit, social benefit and legacy of each proposal, as well as how deliverable each project would be.

Varied and creative entries

After pitching their varied and creative entries to a judging panel this afternoon (24 April), an awards ceremony took place at Manchester's Lowry Hotel, with Lord Smith presenting commemorative certificates to the finalists and prize cheques to the overall winners.
Undergraduate:
  • Winner – Edward McEwan, Durham University;
  • Runner-up – Laura Mills, Leeds University;
  • Third place – Victoria and Rebecca Smith, Durham University


Postgraduate:
  • Winner – Dave Chandler, Sheffield University;
  • Runner-up – Tom Curwell, Salford University;
  • Third place – Adam Broadhead, Sheffied University.


Postdoctoral:
  • Winner – David Fitzpatrick, Manchester University;
  • Runner-up – Will Shepherd, Sheffield University.


Enhancing career prospects

As well as providing valuable recognition and enhancing the entrants' career prospects, the students who made it to the finals could also get the chance to work alongside the Environment Agency to see their ideas come to life.

Sam Billington, a student graduate who joined the Environment Agency as a Survey Assistant - later going on to become an Environment Agency Project Manager, said:
"It's been incredibly rewarding to be involved in a project seeking to improve the environment and help people enjoy it in a sustainable way, while also supporting young people and providing them with a platform to share their ideas.

"Pollution Challenge has demonstrated we have a deep pool of talent in our universities and we've been delighted with the sheer quality of entries which have come through. It's certainly made judging very tough indeed."
Paul Horton, CIWEM Director of Membership and International Development, a judge at the event, said:
"Urban diffuse pollution is an issue that continues to challenge our water and environmental managers.

"With the number of urban dwellers on the rise [more than three quarters of Europe's citizens live in urban areas], innovative and cost-effective solutions for this type of pollution are necessary, particularly as our climate becomes increasingly variable. We are pleased to have had such an informed pool of young talent bringing a fresh eye and different way of thinking about these issues."