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Catherine Cook Student Helps One Town Fight Against Bottled Water Industry

By Mina Bloom | September 26, 2016 6:15am
 Evan Sill, 12, with his class project,
Evan Sill, 12, with his class project, "The Dark Side of Bottled Water."
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

OLD TOWN — When 12-year-old Evan Sill set out to do a class project on the dangers of plastic water bottles last school year, he had no idea that he'd actually reach a city official — let alone help make a difference.

The idea behind the end-of-the-year project at the private school, 226 W. Schiller St., was to choose a topic or policy that should be changed and try to make a change — big or small.

Evan chose the dangers of plastic water bottles after his teacher, Elizabeth Niketopoulos, tipped him off to a controversy in the small town of Eldred, Penn.

According to media reports, water bottle company Nestlé was trying to extract 200,000 gallons of water from the town's aquifer — an underground water resource.

"I didn't know what the outcome was going to be, but based on what I'd read, I felt worried and mad. I saw it as an act of greed, which is common for big businesses," Evan said.

So Evan launched a petition and circulated it around school, which resulted in about 15 signatures, mostly from teachers. Deciding that wasn't enough, he decided to launch a letter-writing campaign to convince the Eldred Township Planning Commission to deny Nestle’s application.

He ended up collecting about 30 letters from students, which he promptly sent out — with help from Niketopoulos.

"That's when I found out I didn't know how to address a letter," he said with a laugh. "I think I went through 40 envelopes before I got it right."

The whole summer went by and Evan didn't hear back. It wasn't until school started back up again in September that Robert B. Boileau with the Eldred Township Planning Commission responded.

In an email addressed to Niketopoulos, Boileau said Nestlé had withdrawn its application.

"Let me know some of the details and I will send a letter to your students thanking and commending them," he wrote.

Evan was ecstatic.

"I was super excited, not because I heard back, but because I helped make a change," he said.

Now Evan is planning to continue studying the impact of plastic water bottles, particularly for the Global Issues Network, which takes students to foreign countries to to study global issues that are impacting communities. 

"I feel like there are ways to make a change. There are simpler ways to make a change," he said.

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