Georgia high school student to represent U.S. in international Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition

In a ceremony Saturday, Heather Mispagel, of Athens, Georgia, has been named the U.S. winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize.


DALLAS, Texas, June 12, 2003 -- In a ceremony Saturday, Heather Mispagel, of Athens, Georgia, has been named the U.S. winner of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. She will compete in the only international competition to recognize students for excellence in water science research.

The senior from Oconee County High School studied "Antibiotic Resistance from Sewage Oxidation Ponds." Mispagel traced antibiotics and genes coding for their resistance through treatment stages in sewage oxidation ponds. Her research was selected from among 37 winners of state competitions.

The U.S. competition is organized by the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and its Member Associations, with support from ITT Industries and The Coca-Cola Company. ITT Industries is also the international sponsor.

Mispagel documented five mobile home park sewage oxidation ponds in Clarke and Oconee counties discharging high numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into the waterways of North Georgia. A survey revealed that many residents did not complete antibiotic treatments and disposed of leftover medications into the sewage system. In the pond discharges, resistance was found to more than eighteen antibiotics. To further the study Mispagel developed a bioreactor model to study oxidation pond function. Tetracycline resistant genes were detected. These genes are usually found in human intestinal bacteria and spread rapidly into the environment.

"Mispagel's study was well conceived and very well executed," explains WEF Nomination Chair Dr. Charles Sorber. "Her focus on removal of antibiotic resistant organisms from oxidation ponds has world wide application." Mispagel's work has resulted in the implementation of a public education program to educate residents of the mobile home community to properly dispose of antibiotics to prevent future contamination.

Mispagel was awarded $2,500 and an all-expense paid trip to Stockholm where she will compete in August against winners of 29 national competitions for the international honors. This year six new countries will enter the competition, which has grown each year since being founded. New entrants for 2003 include China, Vietnam, Kenya, Cameroon, Russia and India. Many of these countries, most notably China and Kenya, are currently facing significant clean water shortage and access issues.

"While the global water environment remains in peril, the future depends on our ability to manage this life-sustaining resource. Today's youth are indeed tomorrow's leaders and must be encouraged to pursue water-related careers or risk further erosion of our scarce supply," said Tom Martin, senior vice president and director of corporate relations, ITT Industries. "The Stockholm Junior Water Prize helps meet that objective and is the reason ITT Industries has been a proud sponsor since its inception as an international competition seven years ago."

Participating countries in the 2003 international Stockholm Junior Water Prize include: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cameroon, Chile, China, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

The winner of the international competition will be chosen based on the quality and relevance of the student's project. HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden will bestow the prize on August 12 during a ceremony held in conjunction with the Stockholm Water Symposium. The laureate will receive a $5,000 scholarship and a crystal sculpture.

Four U.S. finalists were also awarded $500 each. They include Vijay Yanamadala, Palos Verdes Estates, California; Kiana Frank, Kailua, Hawaii; Alexandra, Antonioli, Butte, Montana; and, Sean Raj, Sugar Land, Texas.

Founded in 1928, the Water Environment Federation (WEF) is a not-for-profit technical and educational organization with members from varied disciplines who work toward the WEF vision of preservation and enhancement of the global water environment. The WEF network includes water quality professionals from 79 Member Associations in over 30 countries.

ITT Industries, Inc. (http://www.itt.com) supplies advanced technology products and services in key markets including: electronic interconnects and switches; defense communication, opto-electronics, information technology and services; fluid and water management and other industrial products. The company reported 2002 revenues of $4.99 billion.

For more information visit http://www.StockholmJuniorWaterPrize.org.

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