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Skykomish High Students Win President’s Environmental Youth Award For Skykomish River Video Project

Release Date: 4/8/2002
Contact Information: Bill Dunbar
(206) 553-1203

April 5, 2002

A student-produced video project has earned six Skykomish high school students recognition from President George W. Bush and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Begun as a film class project at Skykomish High, "An Oily Sky" documents the issue of oil seeping through the soil from an old railroad fueling station in the community. The documentary was selected as one of 10 national winners in the EPA-sponsored President’s Environmental Youth Award program. The students and their teacher, Don Emerson, will be flown to Washington, D.C., April 15-19 to receive their award at a national ceremony.

The first video produced was a two-minute overview about the oil and heavy metal contamination present in the Skykomish rail yard and described what efforts had been done to date. Oil had been observed seeping into the river as early as the 1920s but was dismissed as being a minor problem associated with overfilled fuel tanks on the locomotives. Studies in the 1990s established the amount of underground oil to be approximately 160,000 gallons. Some recovery efforts were begun but by the year 2000 only a little over 700 gallons of the oil had been recovered and oil was still seeping into the Skykomish River.

The students wanted to do a more complete video documentary and use the video to increase public awareness of the problem. After winning grant funding from a King County Solid Waste Division school arts program, students produced the film with help from Seattle’s 911 Media Arts Center. "An Oily Sky" then premiered at the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival in Leavenworth, Washington in April of 2001.

Thanks in part to this class project, local and state officials have started work on remedial action. A first step in the total cleanup of the oil spill took place last summer by the building of a barrier wall to prevent oil seepage into the Skykomish River.

The President’s Environmental Youth Awards program -- celebrating 31 years of recognizing student excellence and achievement -- has two components: the regional certificate program and the national awards competition. Regional certificates from the President of the United States are awarded by each of the ten EPA regions. One outstanding project from each region is presented with a Presidential plaque at an EPA sponsored award ceremony. Youth of any age - from kindergarten through high school - can enter as individuals, or as a group. Young people from around the country are invited annually to participate in the awards program which is aimed at encouraging individuals, school classes, summer camps, public interest groups, and youth organizations to promote environmental awareness and positive community involvement.
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For more information on the President’s Environmental Youth Awards:

Award Winning Students: Ryan Brosseau, Angela Coryell, Bonnie LeCoque, Scott McCausland, James Valentine II, and Davut Hasdemir(German exchange student who will be flying back from Germany to attend the D.C. ceremony)

Contact: Bill Dunbar Heather Hayes
EPA/Seattle King County
206-553-1207 206-296-8263