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Innovative Water Quality Project by New Jersey High School Student Wins EPA Award

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High school senior wins EPA's Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award


PHOENIX (May 17, 2019) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Harshal Agrawal, a senior at Dr. Ronald E. McNair Academic High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, has won the 2019 Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2019[1] in Phoenix, Arizona. Harshal’s ISEF project, “Large-Scale Field Testing of Stropharia Mycelium Buffer Strips for Harmful Algae Bloom Prevention, Year 5,” has a long-term goal of developing a low-cost, eco-friendly, and efficient way of preventing Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs).

Harshal’s project inspiration came when his favorite greenspace, the Jersey City Resevoir #3, experienced a harmful algal bloom. Harshal investigated whether mushroom mycelium, a mat-like root structure of mushrooms that has been shown to effectively remove bacteria in water, would be effective in addressing nutrient pollution by removing nitrogen and phosphorus. After testing his initial findings within the lab, he sought to field test the approach. In his fifth year of research, Harshal worked with his local county officials to install his solution at a New Jersey golf course. With an eye to sustainability, Harshal proposed the substrate for the mushrooms be vegetation otherwise considered waste, such as corn husk or other organic matter, and that that the mushrooms themselves be harvested for additional revenue.

The EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award provides funding for the student to travel to attend and participate in the EPA’s National Sustainability Design Expo, which is held the following year. The expo features the university and college student teams of EPA’s P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet program, which encourages innovative designs applying science, technology, engineering and mathematics to address an environmental challenge.

“The International Science and Engineering Fair is a remarkable opportunity for young innovators to build a global scientific network of peers, explore the sciences, and apply them to real-world environmental issues,” said EPA Science Advisor Dr. Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta. “We applaud all the finalists and encourage them to keep thinking creatively and applying the sciences to sustainable solutions to pressing problems.”

Harshal won the award at Intel ISEF, the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Created and produced by the Society for Science & the Public[2], this year Intel ISEF brought together 1,842 high school students from 80 countries, regions and territories who presented their independent research in competition for approximately $5 million in awards and scholarships.

Jacqueline Prawira, a freshman at Mountain House High School in Mountain House, California, received an honorable mention for her project “OceanBioplas: The Plasticity of Marine Exoskeleton-Inspired Materials and their Degradability in the Environment (Soil and Seawater/Saltwater).” Jacqueline’s project used biomimicry to replace single-use plastics with an alternative, biodegradable solution.

Since 2009, EPA has participated in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair[3], awarding the EPA Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award each year to one project that demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability and stewardship.

“The Society for Science & the Public congratulates Harshal Agrawal on winning the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair,” said Maya Ajmera, President & CEO of the Society for Science & the Public and Publisher of Science News. “The innovative ideas presented at Intel ISEF demonstrate the power of scientific curiosity and the desire for all of our finalists to make the world a better place.”

Harshal Agrawal, winner of the 2019 Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award stands in front of his winning project.

For more information about EPA’s participation in the Intel ISEF and to see past winners of the Patrick H. Hurd Sustainability Award, please visit:[4]  

More information about the Intel ISEF:[5]

More information about EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability:[6]


  1. ^Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2019 (
  2. ^Society for Science & the Public (
  3. ^Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (
  4. ^ (
  5. ^ (
  6. ^ (

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