Apr 13, 2007

Washington D.C. High School Student Honored for Lead Contamination Report

Laura Mirviss of Potomac, Md., was today announced as the winner of the annual ITT Award for Excellence in Student Water Journalism for her article titled, “Lead Astray: MCPS Failed to Enact Lead Plan.”

This award was created by ITT Corporation a global leader in water technology, to recognize aspiring journalists reporting on water-related environmental issues. The competition was designed to raise awareness and encourage exploration of global water challenges.

Mirviss, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., reported on her investigation into the public school system's failure to address lead contamination in her school's water supply. The article was originally published in the Feb. 1, 2007, issue of the Montgomery Blair High School newspaper, Silver Chips. In 2004, her high school was found to have 237 water sources with lead levels that exceeded the EPA-mandated limit of 20 ppb. Through her reporting, she found that none of the protocol requirements within the 2004 remediation plan had been met at her school.

“Testing the water is only the first step. Resolving problems that arise from these tests is crucial,” said Steve Loranger, chairman, president and CEO of ITT Corp. “By creating this award, as well as promoting the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, ITT Corporation aims to foster awareness, encourage future generations to voice these issues, and strive for solutions to ensure widespread access to clean, safe water.”

In January of this year, the District of Columbia Water and Sewage Authority issued its most recent report on lead levels in area drinking supplies, noting that 90 percent of the samples had lead levels of 12 ppb or less, a level below U.S. EPA’s action level of 15 ppb. These regular reports are the proactive result of WASA discovering drinking supplies that tested above the federal limit for lead contamination. The results demonstrate that some action has been taken to improve drinking water quality in Washington D.C.

Mirviss’ article stood out for its timeliness, use of research and sources, and strong execution. Her piece was selected from a pool of articles submitted nationwide by a judging panel of top environmental, science and water journalists and industry leaders, including judges representing National Geographic, MSNBC, The Scientist, Time magazine and Water Environment and Technology.

“Laura Mirviss produced a remarkable, courageous piece of investigative reporting that shows an impressive commitment to uncovering the truth about an important issue,” said Michael Lemonick, senior writer for Time magazine.

As part of the award, Mirviss and her faculty advisor will receive an expense-paid trip to Stockholm, Sweden to attend and report from the 2007 Stockholm Water Symposium, which takes place as part of the annual World Water Week, August 11-17, 2007. Upon publication of an article resulting from her experience at World Water Week, Mirviss will be awarded a $1,000 scholarship from ITT.