While conducting studies of local bay pollution for her Science Research class, Long Beach High School senior Arianne Papa was surprised to find that water samples taken from Reynolds Channel contained low levels of pharmaceuticals. Using a UV spectral photometer to test for peak wavelengths of certain drugs in the water samples, she discovered traces of over-the-counter and prescription formulas that people dispose of every day were contaminating the waste lines.
With the cooperation of the Long Beach Police Department, Arianne organized Operation Medicine Cabinet to help stem the flow of these drugs into our waterways and landfills. Working with fellow National Honor Society members Jordan Jaffe and Andrew Hurst, NHS advisor Nora Bellsey and Long Beach Police Detective Sergeant Karl Hayes and Officer Angelo Peppe, Arianne set up a collection station for unwanted and expired medicines at two recent High School concerts. The Long Beach Police Department will ensure safe and proper disposal of the medications.
“Sewage treatment plants are not testing for pharmaceuticals before discharging the water in the environment,” noted Arianne. “People don’t realize the impact on the environment.”
Way to Go: Arianne Papa, Long Beach H.S.
Published: January 30, 2012
By Michael R. Ebert
Arianne Papa is working to improve her community's local water quality -- one pharmaceutical at a time.
The Long Beach High School senior coordinated a drug collection in which residents brought in unwanted or expired medication for proper disposal during the school's winter concerts in December.
Papa said the idea stemmed from a science research project she did with classmate Jane Smyth that revealed "very low levels" of aspirin and ibuprofen in nearby Reynolds Creek.
"Sewage treatment plants are not testing for pharmaceuticals before discharging the water on the environment," said Papa. To spread the word about her efforts, Papa said the school allowed her to hang fliers in hallways and place an automated phone call to families.
Papa and Smyth's research project -- which used mussels to filter treated sewage effluent -- earned them two gold medals last year at the 2011 International Sustainable World (Engineering, Energy and Environment) Project Olympiad, also known as I-SWEEEP. They also took a second-place award last year at the International Science & Engineering Fair.
Papa is a drum major in her school's marching band, an officer in the National Honor Society and vice president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society.