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In 2015, 11-year-old Stella Bowles wanted to go swimming in LaHave River in Nova Scotia, but her mom said no. Stella’s mom told her it wasn’t a good idea because of the sewage that was being dumped into the river. This prompted Stella to begin testing the river water for fecal bacteria as part of a science project. She sampled parts of the river where her brother went swimming and, with the help of a local doctor, the samples were tested for bacteria.

The results discovered that the four areas that were sampled had bacteria levels that exceeded Health Canada guidelines.

Stella began to research the impact straight pipes had on the health of the river. A straight pipe system is a sewage disposal system that transports raw or partially settled sewage directly into the water. The discharge of raw sewage into the LaHave River through straight pipes is illegal under the Nova Scotia. She posted her findings on a Facebook page that garnered hundreds of shares and responses.

Stella ended up securing more than $15-million from all three levels of government to fix the problem. In 2018, work to swap out straight pupes for septic systems that include septic tanks, pump chamber, sand filters and drain fields began.

Now, Stella is Canada’s Walk of Fame Community Hero. The Community Hero Honour, presented by MLSE and Scotiabank, is awarded to a young Canadian who is making a difference. It looks at a person’s actions, work, project or volunteer efforts that serve as a model in their communities.

We spoke with Stella about her work and how she’s trying to inspire other kids in Nova Scotia. Watch the interview in the clip above.