Maize High School students work to improve Kansas drinking water, win scholarships

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MAIZE, Kan. (KAKE) -

Students in the Climate Club at Maize High School are working to improve drinking water for Kansans. The group has been sampling water from Cheney Reservoir, testing for toxins and implementing possible long-term solutions. 

The students are gaining scholarship money along the way by competing in the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national environmental competition for high school and middle school students. The group was awarded $10,000 in scholarships and grants. They have been invited to compete in the final phase of the national competition with a chance to win up to $30,000 in grants and scholarships. 

In their research, students found that harmful algal blooms are growing in the reservoir. They say the blooms can be as toxic as cobra venom and can lead to serious health problems. 

"It's really important for people to understand the water that you're putting into your body affects all of the other body systems," said biology teacher Amy Hammett, "so solving the problem means a lot to health care in Kansas too."

The students, mostly sophomores and juniors, are working with several environmental leaders including Dr. Ted Harris of Kansas Biological Survey, Matt Unruh of the Kansas Water Office, Shawn Maloney and Scott Macey of the Environmental Division of the City of Wichita, and Mayor Jeff Longwell. 

The team's proposed long-term solutions include building and floating vegetation rafts. These aquatic plants can trap excessive nutrients before the algal blooms eats them. The team says they are also interested in discussing the possibility of running tests on the effectiveness of using a highly successful water treatment system. This would eliminate the toxic chemicals produced by the algal blooms. 

Sophomore Isaac Stanton, founder of the Climate Club, says it's good to know his group's research could help people in the community. 

"It's great to be able to help inform other people something so serious that like most people would not know," said Stanton "I know that I can do things at this school that could actually help Kansas in general."

Climate Club member Ryan Fullerton says he hopes the club's efforts to improve drinking water can have a local and global impact.

"We hope to extend this club onto different things and help the city of Maize and the world," said Fullerton. 

The winners for the final phase of the competition will be announced in March. 

Community members can support the team's efforts by helping to sample water and to fund, build, and float vegetation rafts. 

For more information on how you can help, email

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